Integrating mental health treatment into primary care can break down barriers for underserved children

TEAM UP for Children is a unique model for pediatrics focused on addressing systemic barriers to mental health care.

Patient and doctor are discussing. The patient, a black woman, is smiling and looking engaged, and the doctor, a white woman, is holding a clipboard.

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A new study led by the Boston Medical Center is the most powerful yet to show that the TEAM UP model of integrating mental health into pediatric primary care can improve access to mental health care for children enrolled in Medicaid. showing evidence.


More than 1 in 5 children from low-income households report mental health concerns. However, despite well-established, evidence-based treatments, fewer than half of children receive treatment for mental illness, and when treatment is provided, it is delayed or lasts too long. is often insufficient. On the other hand, most children in the United States receive regular primary care.

“TEAM UP for Children: Transforming and Expanding Access to Mental Health Care in Urban Pediatrics” aims to bring evidence-based holistic behavioral health care to historically underserved communities. It is a model of commitment and care that brings care. Developed jointly by the Boston Medical Center and other federally accredited health centers, together, 74% of the population is patients of color, 37% receive care in a language other than English, and 67% Living below federal poverty standards. level.

Purpose of research

To determine whether a comprehensive pediatric mental health care integration model is relevant to medical access, psychotropic drug use, and mental health follow-up care in children at federally-approved health centers with Medicaid.


This retrospective cohort study used claims data from all Massachusetts payers and the 2017 American Social Survey. The study included Medicaid-enrolled children ages 3 to 17 who received primary care services at one of nine federally-approved health centers in Massachusetts. Three of them used the TEAM UP model, six of which were used as comparison sites.

Investigation result

A total of 20,170 unique children were included in the study sample. Children who visited Massachusetts health centers using the team-up model had a relative increase in mental health-related primary care visits and use of mental health services after 18 months compared to other facilities. . However, psychotropic drug use did not increase in the same group.

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“[This study] “It underscores the importance of addressing the unmet needs of low-income families when accessing mental health services,” said co-author Megan Morgan, chief scientific officer at Boston Medical Center. Bearmeritt, M.D., MSCE said in a press release. Introduction to pediatric primary care can address barriers faced by many children and families. ”


Kim J, Sheldrick RC, Gallagher K, et al. (2023). “Association for the Integration of Mental Health Access and Follow-up Care into Pediatric Primary Care in Federally Qualified Health Centers” JAMA network open.

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