ORLANDO, Fla. – A growing number of pediatric offices in Central Florida will soon be staffed with mental health professionals to combat the childhood mental health crisis.
A recent grant awarded to Nemours Children’s Health will help create the one-year pilot program that Dr. Thomas Lacy said will help eliminate barriers during the pandemic.
“We’re seeing a tremendous increase in depression and anxiety. Suicide has gone up,” Lacy said.
Lacy said Nemours will soon hire licensed mental health counselors to work inside 15 to 16 pediatric offices in Central Florida.
“If a child comes in for a problem and we determine it’s an emotionally-based problem, we’ll have the ability to get that child to a counselor immediately, and that counselor may be in the office face-to-face, they may be in another office that we can connect them through telehealth,” Lacy said.
These visits will all happen from the comfort of the child’s pediatric office.
“Some people have a stigma about going to the counselor. This way, you’re going to your pediatrician’s office just like you’ve done many, many times before. And again, it’s probably close to home,” Lacy said.
The goal is to begin adding the counselors in the spring of 2022. Lacy said it’s important for parents to trust their instincts when it comes to mental health.
“If you sense something is wrong, please go to your doctor and talk about it and let us try to help figure out if there is (something wrong),” Lacy said.