Developing a pediatric telebehavioral health consultation model for emergency departments

Project Type(s):

Principal Investigator(s):

As rates of pediatric mental health emergencies have skyrocketed over the last decade – and even more so since the Covid-19 pandemic – the number of youth staying in emergency departments (EDs) and medical units while awaiting inpatient psychiatric care or stabilization (i.e., “boarding”) has reached unprecedented levels. The massive surges in patient volume, coupled with widespread staff shortages and lack of staff expertise in treating mental health, are overwhelming ED and hospital resources. This causes dangerous or even life-threatening delays in care for youth populations in greatest need of medical and psychiatric treatment. Prolonged ED stays not only delay necessary mental health care, but they can cause additional trauma and distress for youth already in crisis. While the boarding crisis affects all hospitals and EDs, it poses an even greater challenge to community EDs that lack on-site mental health specialists and/or pediatric providers.

To address the boarding crisis, this project will pilot a model in which a multidisciplinary team of mental health clinicians at Seattle Children’s Hospital provides telebehavioral health consultation to community EDs in Western Washington to guide care for youth who are boarding. The primary goals of this model are (1) to improve timeliness of mental health care and reduce length of stay for youth boarding in community EDs, and (2) to support ED staff in providing more developmentally appropriate and evidence-informed mental healthcare. The Seattle Children’s team will provide case consultation to ED providers and staff, including support with decisions about hospitalization, medication treatment, behavioral interventions and case management services. The team will also deliver practical trainings to community ED staff to build their internal capacity to care for boarding youth. If this initiative is successful, additional funding could expand ED telebehavioral health consultation services statewide, with a focus on rural communities.

Project Period:
January 1, 2023 December 31, 2023

Funding Type(s):

Garvey Institute for Brain Health Solutions

Geographic Area(s):

Practice Type(s):

Patient Population(s):
Adolescents, Children

Targeted Condition(s):
Autism Spectrum Disorder, Depression, Health disparities, Suicidal Ideation