With growing recognition that between 10% and 20% of children and adolescents in the United States suffer from a psychiatric disorder that impairs daily functioning, there exists an urgent national need for more psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and advanced-practice nurses specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry and early-onset behavioral and mental health disorders. Presently, only about 5% of children and adolescents in need receive any mental health evaluation or intervention at all. Early recognition and appropriate treatment of psychiatric disorders in the developing years offers hope of reducing the overall burden of psychiatric illness across the lifespan of vulnerable individuals. In the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at UConn Health, we are dedicated to providing multidisciplinary, state-of-the-art assessment and intervention for children, adolescents, and families with early-onset mental health and behavioral health disorders.
The Division has a particular focus on working with youngsters and families in the public sector in Connecticut. This is reflected in our mission statement.
Using a collaborative multidisciplinary model, the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at UConn Health seeks to provide empirically-based, culturally competent, and developmentally sensitive standards-of-care, facilitate greater knowledge through clinical, applied, and translational research, and attract and educate new pediatric mental health specialty students and trainees in the understanding, treatment, and prevention of early onset mental health disorders in children and adolescents, with a particular emphasis on those in the public sector.
Indeed, the Division works closely with federally qualified health care centers and state public sector agencies to provide mental health assessment and clinical interventions to children and adolescents in juvenile detention, in state-funded residential treatment centers and hospitals, in the juvenile courts, and for youngsters in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF). The Homecare Program provides mental health intervention across the state for adolescents recently released from detention with a goal of preventing recidivism in at-risk youths. We are very interested in the integration of pediatric primary care with child psychiatry and allied mental health professionals in the early recognition and treatment of pediatric mental health and behavioral health disorders. As such, the Division works closely with pediatricians and family and community medicine clinicians to develop innovative teaching tools with the potential to facilitate knowledge about mental health disorders in children for pediatric primary care providers.
Clinical research is important in expanding the scientific knowledge base in child and adolescent psychiatry, and is well represented within the Division. We are working on federal and state funded research projects in the areas of developmental traumatic stress, the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, and the treatment of adolescent alcohol and substance abuse. Other areas of clinical research interest include externalizing behavior disorders, maladaptive aggression, and pediatric psychopharmacology in referred children and adolescents. We are collaborating with the Shriver Center of the UMass Medical School on a federally funded grant to develop an assessment battery for depression in children and adolescents with mental retardation and limited verbal skills. We also collaborate with the laboratory on developmental neurobiology in the Psychology Department at Northeastern University, Boston, MA on translational research in the behavioral pharmacology of escalated aggression.
The Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at UConn Health is growing rapidly. The present faculty are all full-time, and includes three child and adolescent psychiatrists, six pediatric psychologists, three advanced-practice registered nurses with a specialty in pediatric psychopharmacology, and one social worker. As we look towards the future, a growing collaborative relationship with the state Department of Children and Families will facilitate new opportunities for the multi-disciplinary collaborative care of seriously emotionally disturbed children and adolescents in Connecticut. We are excited about the Division and hope you will be too. Come have a look at us.
Asima A. Zehgeer, M.D.
Program Training Director