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Children's National Convenes Summit of Children's Hospitals and National Experts to Advance Mental Health Care for Children


Washington, DC – National leaders, policy makers, and medical experts from disciplines across pediatric medicine and mental health gathered Wednesday at the Children’s National Summit on Improving Children’s Mental Health Care.

The summit was organized as a response to the call to action from last year’s White House National Conference on Mental Health, which encouraged nonprofit organizations and private sector companies to help lead changes in mental health care for children through continued conversations.

Led by Kurt Newman, MD, President and CEO of Children’s National Health System, the Summit drew high-profile speakers – current and former members of Congress, and state and local government officials – including the Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy, former US Representative; Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT); Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA); DC Mayor Vincent Gray; and Virginia Health and Human Resources Secretary William A. Hazel Jr., MD.

Leaders of children’s hospitals, associations, and advocacy groups involved in mental health who attended the event engaged in moderated panel and roundtable discussions with the goal of developing recommendations that could inform policy, improve treatment, and optimize access to mental health care services for children.

Initial recommendations from the roundtable discussions included:

  • Develop a behavioral health strategic plan and enhanced mental health capabilities at all children’s hospitals (services for long-term patients, emergency department staff resources, coordination with community care)
  • Develop partnerships and sustainable funding models to expand effective pilot programs
  • De-stigmatize mental illness—among families, teachers, primary care providers, legislators
  • Improve coordination of services across government  agencies (health ,education,  justice, welfare)
  • Devote more resources to prevention
  • Better integrate mental health services with schools
  • Find more ways to treat the whole family, not just the child
  • Build evidence base for the ROI in improved access, care coordination and reimbursement
  • Make core mental health competencies a mainstream part of pediatric training
  • Improve incentives to increase workforce: fellowships, internships, tuition reduction

“It is long overdue that mental health is seen more broadly as a children’s health issue,” said Dr. Newman.  “Children’s hospitals and caregivers see the limits of our current model up close, every day. But we also know this is a complex problem. Finding effective solutions will require bringing pediatricians, innovators, and leaders together.”

The inaugural Summit on Improving Children’s Mental Health Care was hosted by Children’s National Health System in conjunction with National Mental Health Month and in context of the year of mental health initiatives launched by the White House.

Topics addressed in the Summit included:

  • Mental health lessons learned in urban settings
  • Practicing mental health in a children’s hospital
  • Trauma-informed mental health care    
  • Identifying kids at risk and de-stigmatizing diagnosis    
  • Collaborative care with primary care pediatricians    
  • Workforce issues    
  • Financial (reimbursement) parity for mental health    
  • Advocacy for legislation to improve outcomes    
  • Improving access to mental health services for children
  • Coordinating care through the mental health continuum
  • School-based mental health

For additional information about the Summit, contact Children’s National at 202-476-4500.