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Allegheny Health Network Receives Grant to Increase Behavioral Health Screenings and Services for Pediatric Patients

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

PITTSBURGH, Pa – Allegheny Health Network (AHN) will expand behavioral health screenings for pediatric patients thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Staunton Farm Foundation. The funding will be used for screenings, providing referrals and educational materials for patients seen at the AHN Pediatric Orthopedic Institute (POI) to help address a critical need among many children suffering from a chronic illness, condition or pain.

Established as a collaboration between POI caregivers and the AHN Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Institute, the new initiative is designed with a strategic three-pronged approach. Primarily, the funds will be used to support the development of a tailored curriculum to train POI staff to assess and detect behavioral health symptoms in youth and provide appropriate referrals when needed.

“Pediatric patients with chronic illness or pain are at higher risk for mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Children with musculoskeletal disorders, spinal deformities and changes in activity levels are at an extremely high risk,” said Dr. Mark Sangimino, MD, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and director of the AHN Pediatric Orthopedic Institute. “Thanks to the Staunton Farm Foundation, we’re starting up a vital effort to provide this vulnerable population of patients with the multidisciplinary resources and support they need to recover and thrive physically and emotionally after a difficult injury or during ongoing treatment for a congenital health condition.”

In addition, AHN will develop and distribute educational materials that help inform families of what to look for, when to seek help and where to go when children exhibit behavioral health symptoms. Lastly, AHN care teams will begin universal screening for all pediatric patients receiving treatment at the POI, with specific screening tools and methods incorporated into a patient’s typical treatment path.

“The majority of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems never receive treatment. Universal screening is intended to improve detection of symptoms which has the potential to improve overall functioning of patients at the POI through increased access to behavioral health services,” said Lorelei Rowe, PhD, AHN clinical psychologist.

Behavioral health problems like depression, anxiety, PTSD and substance abuse occur in roughly 20 percent of children and adolescents in the United States. Furthermore, the Journal of the American Medical Association for Pediatrics recently reported that more than half of children who are in need of mental health services do not receive them.

“The fundamental goal of this important initiative closely aligns with Staunton Farm Foundation’s  mission to improve the lives and well-being of those suffering from mental health disorders,” said Joni Schwager, Executive Director of the Staunton Farm Foundation. “By adding universal behavioral health screenings, appropriate referrals and educational materials, for children and adolescents, we are confident we will make a difference in the lives of many in this community. We are proud to collaborate with the exceptional caregivers of AHN in fulfilling that goal.”

Based out of Wexford, Pa, the AHN POI is one of the region’s leading multi-disciplinary programs and facilities for children, adolescents, and teenagers who suffer from orthopedic and neuromuscular conditions, and injuries. The Institute offers state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment capabilities and is a key component of AHN’s growing portfolio of services designed to provide remarkable care for younger patients.