Newswise — (Seattle—Jan. 4, 2017) Seattle Children’s has launched PAL Plus, a pilot program that increases access to mental and behavioral health services for underserved and economically disadvantaged children in Benton and Franklin counties. PAL Plus, the first program of its kind in the state, offers in-person counseling sessions with local behavioral health providers and will track the mental health treatment progress and outcomes of its patients.

“Mental and behavioral health concerns have become increasingly common reasons why children visit their primary care providers,” said Dr. Robert Hilt, who led the design of the program and serves as the Director of Partnership Access Line (PAL) and Community Leadership at Seattle Children’s. “Providing adequate mental and behavioral health support for children is a challenge everywhere, but especially in rural areas of our state. We are hoping to change that with PAL Plus.”

A 2015 report from Mental Health in America revealed that about 46% of children in Washington state who needed mental health services did not receive them, which is higher than the national average of 39%. Currently, there are only six mental health treatment facilities recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that treat children in Benton and Franklin Counties and serve a population of about 275,000 people.

The primary goal of PAL Plus is to equip primary care providers in Benton and Franklin Counties with an evidence-supported system of mental and behavioral care that provides rapidly accessed direct mental health support for their patients exhibiting either signs of depression or significant disruptive behavior.

State Sen. Sharon Brown has been a strong advocate for PAL Plus on Washington’s Senate Health Care Committee and played a pivotal role in ensuring the development of the program.

“The lack of accessibility to mental and behavioral healthcare for both children and adults has had far-reaching consequences throughout our country and state,” Brown said. “Thanks to the commitment of local providers, Seattle Children’s and the people of Benton and Franklin Counties, we have an opportunity to help children and families in the area with a care model that directly addresses this issue.”

PAL Plus accepts patients ages 5 to 18 years old who meet the following criteria: • Reside in Franklin or Benton County• Have Washington state insurance coverage, including Medicaid • Have a diagnosis of mild-to-moderate depression or disruptive behavior • Are not already enrolled in services at a mental health agency

Seattle Children’s collaborates with behavioral health service providers from Catholic Child & Family Service and Lourdes Counseling Center who provide counseling sessions and screenings for eligibility. The PAL Plus team also includes child and adolescent psychiatrists and psychologists affiliated with the University of Washington School of Medicine and Seattle Children’s who are available for further patient support.

PAL Plus is an expansion of Seattle Children’s current PAL program, a telephone-based child mental health consultation system available to primary care providers in Washington and Wyoming.

For more information about PAL Plus, call 206-987-2753 or email PALPlus@seattlechildrens.org.

About Seattle Children’sSeattle Children’s Hospital, Foundation and Research Institute together deliver superior patient care, advance new discoveries and treatments through pediatric research, and raise funds to create better futures for patients. Consistently ranked as one of the top 10 children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s Hospital specializes in meeting the unique physical, emotional and developmental needs of children from infancy through young adulthood. Through the collaboration of physicians in nearly 60 pediatric subspecialties, Seattle Children’s Hospital provides inpatient, outpatient, diagnostic, surgical, rehabilitative, behavioral, and emergency and outreach services to families from around the world.

Located in downtown Seattle’s biotech corridor, Seattle Children’s Research Institute is pushing the boundaries of medical research to find cures for pediatric diseases and improve outcomes for children all over the world. Internationally recognized investigators and staff at the research institute are advancing new discoveries in cancer, genetics, immunology, pathology, infectious disease, injury prevention, bioethics and much more.

Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Foundation and Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild Association work together to gather community support and raise funds for uncompensated care, clinical care and research. The foundation receives nearly 80,000 gifts each year, from lemonade stand proceeds to corporate sponsorships. Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild Association is the largest all-volunteer fundraising network for any hospital in the country, serving as the umbrella organization for 450 groups of people who turn an activity they love into a fundraiser. Support from the foundation and guild association makes it possible for Seattle Children’s care and research teams to improve the health and well-being of all kids.

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