Child, adolescent mental health program expands to address need

Feb 1,2012
Psychiatrist Tim Blumer, DO, began seeing children and adolescents at Samaritan Mental Health in Corvallis in 2010. His practice filled immediately as he treated patients suffering from depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, autism and other mental health issues. A waiting list formed.

One of just a handful of child and adolescent psychiatrists in the state, Blumer is working
to meet a pressing need.

“Ask any parent of a child with a mental health issue about access to care,” Blumer said. “They’ll tell you it’s practically impossible.”

Waiting lists for the few child psychiatrists in the region can extend up to six months. Psychologists, social workers and counselors who work with children and teens also have long waiting lists. When a child is in crisis, even suicidal, parents have few options, and families often end up in the Emergency Department. Though ED physicians are skilled in dealing with crisis situations, once these patients are discharged, parents often face long waiting lists for outpatient services.
 
“Can you imagine being in this situation and being told there is a waiting list to be seen?” Blumer asked. “We need a greater range of mental health services readily available to these families – outpatient services that can help kids who don’t require hospitalization.”

With these challenges in mind and with support from contributions to the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation, Samaritan Mental Health is developing a child, adolescent and family mental health center to provide comprehensive mental health care and coordinate services to patients in Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties. First steps include hiring a clinical social worker and a child psychologist to expand the capacity of Samaritan Mental Health to serve children and teens with a wide range of mental health issues. The new program will allow Blumer and his colleagues to provide more clinical evaluations and treatment to hundreds of existing and new patients in the region, and the new providers will offer support groups for children, teens and parents.

“The program will start small, with the treatment team located in Corvallis,” Blumer said. “The plan is to expand services to other communities in our region. We are encouraging community partners, like school districts and other agencies that provide services to youth, to collaborate with us so we can work together to meet needs in a timely and effective way. If we develop a mental health system that is proactive, we can provide urgent services as well as proactive services to help families avoid crisis situations.”

Though the new program will about double the current capacity of Samaritan Mental Health to serve children and teens, this is only the beginning.

“We’re starting with a small kernel,” Blumer said. “It will take years to grow. I see it growing into something quite comprehensive, making things better for children, teens and families in our communities.”

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