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February 28, 2014
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Upstate/ARISE collaboration enhances children’s health services

SYRACUSE, N.Y.— Upstate Medical University and ARISE Child & Family Service have joined forces on a new integrated model of providing mental health services to children.

“Studies have shown connections between conditions like diabetes and depression,” said Kimberly Langbart, LCSW, director of ARISE’s mental health services. “With these kinds of comorbidities, we try to get all services under one roof so that providers can talk with each other.”

The program, based at Upstate Health Care Center in Presidential Plaza, began Sept. 30 with startup funds from the State Office of Mental Health.

Children who are already receiving medical care at UHCC and who appear to need mental health services are referred to ARISE Integrated Care Therapist Erica Riker, MHC, whose office is on the same floor.

“We are so appreciative of ARISE Child and Family Service offering our patients this exceptional opportunity,” said Steven Blatt, M.D., director of general pediatrics at Upstate. “Erica has become a valuable member of our treatment team.”

Almost 40 children ages 4 to 18 are receiving services, with more than a dozen others in the pipeline, said Riker. More boys than girls are in the program. Common issues are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, anxiety, depression and eating disorders, she said.

Some of the children have been affected by a traumatic event, either in their family or in the community. “Trauma is anything that may happen to someone that causes them to feel differently after,” Riker said.

Langbart said the integrated care model succeeds because of the collaborative approach by medical care providers and Riker.

“The assessment process is a powerful phase of the treatment,” Langbart said. “Erica has been so successful in such a short time, because she’s part of the team. Upstate is committed, and has welcomed us with open arms. The doctors and nurses really care about the kids.”

Parents can feel it’s a mark against their parenting skills if their child needs mental health services, Langbart said, but that stigma is reduced in the integrated care model.

While they are at UHCC with their child, she said, “if they’re wondering why their child is depressed or acting out, the medical care person can get Erica. It’s the difference between being four blocks away and being right here. And the parents trust her.”

Riker said it’s more difficult to be a child these days with the prevalence of bullying and the added elements of social media and texting, but there’s also more help available.

“It’s hard for parents to ask for help,” she said. “Parents will say, ‘I see parts of myself in my child. I wish I had gotten help (for myself) when I was younger.’ ”

Riker said the majority of her clients wouldn’t be able to be seen if they had to pay out of pocket. Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income patients, covers Riker’s services.

“This is a good thing,” said Tom McKeown, executive director at ARISE.

“People are healthier, and we’re avoiding bigger problems later.”

McKeown, who expects the program to grow, said ARISE was a logical choice to provide pediatric mental health services at Upstate.

The Syracuse-based agency works with children at several elementary schools and neighborhood centers, he said, and mental health issues are often a factor in the lives of people with disabilities – and not just among clients served by ARISE.

“We’re led by dedicated people including those with mental health needs in their backgrounds,” McKeown said. “Among disabilities, mental health is clearly a component.”

Langbart said the integrated care program at UHCC reflects the ARISE mission. “It’s simply about helping other people,” she said.

Caption: ARISE Child & Family Service integrated care therapist Erica Riker, left, provides mental health counseling to children receiving medical care at Upstate Health Care Center, 90 Presidential Plaza. Erica collaborates with the medical team led by Steven Blatt, MD, right, director of the general pediatric division at Upstate. Access to child mental health providers is often poor, especially for low-income children, Blatt said. Having a therapist provide counseling in a familiar setting “is wonderful for our patients.”

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