EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Mental health is more important now than ever, as the pandemic has drastically impacted the daily lives of nearly all individuals. A new telehealth project being launched from Texas Tech Health Sciences Center El Paso aims to improve access to that care in the Borderland.
The Child Psychiatry Access Network Hotline, also known as CPAN, will provide tools for primary care providers to better assist the mental health needs of their patients.
Many children and adolescents in Texas lack access to nearby mental health care. The problem is made worse by the pandemic.
The responsibility for providing that care, especially in rural areas without child psychiatrists, often falls on a child's primary care provider. CPAN will give those providers free tools and resources to better respond to those needs. Healthcare workers can call the hotline at 1-888-901-CPAN (2726) for tools to better identify, assess and treat mental health concerns.
"Usually the primary care providers see the illnesses as they first present," said Dr. Sarah Martin, the Division Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at TTUHSC. "It's better for the kid and the future of that child if they can be treated right away. We just want to increase the knowledge level, the confidence level, of all the primary care providers."
The project is part of a statewide program and is one component of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium created by Texas Senate Bill 11. TTUHSC El Paso was chosen as the West Texas hub and will receive a little more than $2 million to implement CPAN in 16 counties.
TTUHSC El Paso reports that dozens of counties in West Texas do not currently have a psychiatrist. Dr. Martin says expanding telemedicine can improve access and ensure rural communities don't get left behind.
"There's just not a lot of people concentrated and you do need a certain amount of kids to support the salary of a child psychiatrist," said Dr. Martin. "Telemedicine is really going to reach these kids that otherwise wouldn't have a chance."