What You Should Know:

  • Advocare LLC, a 750-provider multi-specialty group practice based in New Jersey with the largest number of pediatric providers in the state, today announced a partnership with Fort Health, a virtual pediatric behavioral healthcare company built with the Child Mind Institute, to expand services delivered through primary care.
  • Advocare’s primary care facilities throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania will now have the option to leverage Fort Health’s services giving more than 450 primary care providers and their patients access to quality behavioral healthcare services through a Collaborative Care model.

Addressing Pediatric Behavioral Health Crisis Through Collaborative Care

Pediatric healthcare providers are facing a daunting challenge with an increasing number of patients grappling with behavioral health issues. Notably, mental health concerns have now surpassed physical ailments as the predominant issue encountered in clinical and non-clinical settings. This shift is unsurprising, considering that only a small fraction, roughly 20%, of children with mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders receive treatment from specialized mental health professionals. 

According to the April 2023 Youth Mental Health Report, approximately a quarter of children in New Jersey are reported to have at least one mental health condition, with an alarming 72,000 teenagers aged 12-17 suffering from depression. In Pennsylvania, the prevalence of depression or anxiety among children surged by a troubling 28%, from 10.2% to 13% in 2022 alone, translating to 282,000 affected children aged 3-17.

In response to this growing crisis, Collaborative Care, an integrated healthcare model, has emerged as the most robust evidence-based approach. Collaborative Care involves a team-based strategy to identify and address mild to moderate behavioral health conditions within primary care settings. With over 80 randomized controlled trials backing its efficacy, Collaborative Care has been shown to enhance access to mental healthcare while also proving to be more effective and cost-efficient compared to traditional behavioral health services.

One significant advantage of Collaborative Care is its insurance coverage, which helps mitigate a major obstacle to treatment. Notably, the likelihood of a child’s mental health office visit being out-of-network is a staggering 10.1 times greater than that of a primary care visit, and twice as likely as an adult mental health consultation.

Within this framework, clinicians from Fort Health and doctors from Advocare collaborate as a care team, tailoring support and treatment to each child’s specific needs. This comprehensive approach ranges from brief talk therapy sessions to psychiatric assessments to parental coaching, ensuring a holistic and individualized approach to care.

“Three out of four youths start their mental health journey in a pediatrician’s office, and 75% of them are initially diagnosed by their pediatrician or primary care provider,” said Natalie Schneider, founder and CEO of Fort Health. “Integrating behavioral health into primary care has untapped potential in addressing the youth mental health crisis. To do it at scale requires innovative clinical and payment models that improve clinical quality and staffing, which is why we have partnered with Advocare to launch Collaborative Care in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We need to open more paths to better care for more families and their children.”