RICHMOND, Va. (WDVM) — The Medical Society of Virginia Foundation launched the Virginia Mental Health Access Program (VMAP) Wednesday, a program that has been in the works since 2018.

VMAP is a statewide initiative that helps healthcare providers take better care of children and adolescents with mental health conditions through education and access to child psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and care navigators.

In the Commonwealth, there are only 13 childhood psychiatrists available for every 100,000 children under the age of 18. This puts Virginia far behind many other states, ranking 41st in the nation.

“VMAP is a key part of the solution, serving as a vital resource for children, families and primary care physicians across our Commonwealth,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

88% of Virginia pediatricians said they’ve seen an increase in depression and anxiety in children during the past year, which has caused a mental health epidemic; and doctors think this is just the beginning.

Courtesy: VMAP

“It goes without saying that we expect the behavioral health impacts of COVID-19 to last far beyond when the pandemic is declared over. I simply can’t think of a better time for VMAP to be launching in the high year,” said Alison Land, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

The four pillars of VMAP aim to address the mental health epidemic. According to a release, the pillars will focus on these four components:

  • Education.  The program provides ongoing education to primary care providers (including pediatricians, family medicine physicians, NPs, and PAs) that allows these health care providers to better screen, diagnose, manage and treat their pediatric patients for a range of mental health conditions. 
  • Behavioral Health Consult Access.  VMAP connects primary care providers treating children and adolescents by telephone with regional VMAP hubs that are staffed with child and adolescent psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers available for consultation.
  • Care Navigation.  Assistance is available that helps the patient families identify and navigate additional mental health services that are offered in their community, outside of the primary care setting when needed.
  • Telehealth.  Telehealth services will be available to VMAP hubs to assist with consults later in 2021. This will allow VMAP consults to provide better support to PCPs.

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