Piedmont Family Service steps in to help as pandemic leads to rise in mental health issues

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HIGH POINT, NC – There is a new resource in Piedmont to help children and families deal with a difficult crisis. The High Point Center for Child Wellness opened to help children with mental and behavioral health issues.

The center is part of the Piedmont Family Service, an organization that helps children and adults who are victims of domestic violence, child abuse, mental health, etc.

It is only dedicated to children. Other centers offering pediatric care can often be part of adult care facilities, which can make children more uncomfortable.

The services offered here not only help individual families, but can help prevent the problems that our community faces each year.

“Child psychiatry is a very important area in terms of the issues we face in our community,” said Jason Jones, medical director of the High Point Center for Child Wellness. “We are seeing rates of depression and anxiety, substance use disorders in the adult population increasing. These problems are increasing in our country and in our community, and it is proven that more than half of all psychiatric problems in adults begin around the age of 14. So the idea of ​​trying to intervene at a young age, to help young people who are starting to deal with anxiety or depression or other behavioral health issues, intervention at a young age can often produce benefits downstream. In this area, an ounce of prevention is better than cure. »

And this center manages care in a different way. The team includes a child psychiatrist, physician assistant, nurses, therapists and a case manager. Together they try to get a more comprehensive plan of care.

“We really intend to provide this 360-degree holistic view of children,” Jones said. “We want to understand the lives of children in their homes, in their communities, in their schools, and we don’t just focus on biology. We consider the needs of the individual therapeutically, we consider the needs of the family, what does the family need, how does the child and family fit into the community. We communicate with schools within the school system and with outside agencies that may provide other types of services to children who attend the Boys and Girls Club or have other types of extracurricular activities.

These services are particularly important in this area where there are not as many resources.

“Guilford County is underserved for mental health resources,” Jones said. “The state of North Carolina ranks very low nationally in terms of child mental health care. That is, children with mental health diagnoses in the state of North Carolina are accessing services at a much lower rate than other states. Here at the Triad we face a similar problem, that the majority of children with psychiatric and mental health issues do not receive the help they need. So to have a center like this that can be a resource for children and families in this community is a particularly necessary thing.

According to Mental Health America, a national nonprofit organization that reviews mental health resources and current trends, North Carolina ranks 44th in the nation in access to care for children. Factors taken into account include the rate of mental health problems among young people and the difficulty of accessing care.

In addition to the statewide challenges, there have also been challenges ensuring that available resources are also accessible to families.

“The High Point area has traditionally received less service than Greensboro,” Jones said. “We serve Guilford County. Family Services of the Piedmont serves Guilford County, and we have a clinic in Greensboro and we have a clinic here in High Point. New funding for child psychiatry beds, crisis stabilization and some other services has been directed primarily to Greensboro. It is one of the few places that has received some attention in High Point with regards to obtaining children, especially for children funded by Medicaid or who are uninsured.

These resources come at a particularly important time. The center opened in March and began seeing the first patients then, and in the months that followed other mental health issues became apparent.

“The effects of the pandemic have been profound,” Jones said. “We definitely saw an increase in anxiety and depression rates. People with pre-existing behavioral health problems find that their conditions are exasperated, that they escalate, that they need more services. People have had more dangerous type behaviors in terms of substance use and thoughts of wanting to harm themselves, and so it’s been a real challenge during the pandemic to provide the support that was already needed in the community that’s coming. to increase both in volume of need and the intensity of the conditions that people go through.

Staff also had to quickly reassess how to help these families when safety measures for the coronavirus pandemic began to take effect.

Inside, procedures appear different, with a limited number of people allowed in the waiting room, face coverings, handwashing stations and social distancing. There has also been a shift to telehealth with patient visits conducted via video chat services.

“It’s kind of new for some families,” Jones said. “We have found that children and adolescents adapt easily to telehealth appointments. In some cases, I think they would rather talk to their doctor than their tablet. Parents, however, have not always been so enthusiastic about this kind of delivery, but we are working with them and everyone is getting into it, and we have found that telehealth is beneficial for some families and will likely continue to be the way they receive care even after the pandemic.

Some of the benefits they have seen with telehealth visits include an inside look at a child’s home life.

“These kids are pretty comfortable,” Jones said. “They’re probably more open with what’s going on with them because they’re home and they’re in their natural environment. Sometimes when the kids come into the office to see the doctor, they might not be as comfortable or as open, but when they’re home, they tend to tell us what’s going on. In addition, these telehealth appointments give us insight into their home environment, which can sometimes constitute an important body of information.

The center was funded through large private donations. Private funding makes the care and services they provide here possible, especially for families who are either on Medicare or have no insurance.

“Fortunately, Piedmont Family Services has relationships with private donors and other organizations in the area, and we were able to launch this clinic with their support and be able to provide this high standard of care and cutting edge technology. for those kids and families who frankly can’t really find it anywhere else in the area,” he said.

To get in touch with Piedmont Family Services, you can call (336) 387-6161. There is also a crisis line number at (336) 273-7273.

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