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In this country, approximately 13 percent of youth live with a serious mental illness, but only about 20 percent of them get the help they need. While primary care providers are often positioned to assess a child’s behavioral problems early on, many feel ill-equipped to make the right referrals, prescribe medications, or manage a chronic condition.

To give District pediatricians the resources they need, Children’s National worked with other area intuitions to establish the DC Collaborative for Mental Health in Pediatric Primary Care.

Headed by Lee Beers, M.D., Medical Director, Child Health Advocacy Institute, Children’s National serves as the administrative home for the comprehensive, city-wide effort. It works to support and/or implement initiatives focused on:

  • Supporting primary care practices and clinicians
  • Supporting families
  • Integrating mental health services into primary care
  • Engaging in related policy and advocacy efforts

Recognizing that only 35 percent of District pediatricians had a current listing of mental health providers, the collaborative’s first undertaking was to develop and distribute a printed directory of providers to streamline referrals.

The hard-copy guide then evolved into DC MAP, a phone consultation and referral service that helps pediatricians choose the best course of action on specific cases. And, in the fall of 2015, those resources were made available online at

Because most pediatricians report being least knowledgeable about mental health services for children under 5, the collaborative has increased its focus on infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with projects like:

  • A perinatal toolkit to help family doctors identify postpartum depression and other parental mental health issues
  • A parent’s guide to getting mental health services
To guide future efforts, the partners formed a working group charged with planning, implementing, and evaluating new initiatives, as well as a community advisory board to provide strategic direction and feedback. 

DC Mental Health Access in Pediatrics (DC MAP)

Early Childhood Innovation Network

Parent Guide

    • DC Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
    • Children’s Law Center
    • Children's National Medical Center
    • DC Department of Behavioral Health
    • DC Department Health Care Finance
    • Georgetown University