Many children who have a mental health disorder do not receive mental health services and are seen only in primary care settings. Perceptions of pediatricians and mental health specialists regarding the role that pediatricians should have in diagnosing and managing children's mental health problems have not been studied.Objective:
To examine whether primary care pediatricians (PCPs) and child and adolescent psychiatrists (CAPs) agree about: (1) the pediatrician's role in identification, referral, and treatment of childhood mental health (MH) disorders; and (2) barriers to the identification, referral, and treatment of childhood MH disorders.Methods:
Surveys were mailed in 2005 to 338 PCPs and 75 CAPs in 7 counties surrounding Cleveland, Ohio. Each group was asked whether they agreed that PCPs should be responsible for identifying, treating, or referring 7 prevalent childhood MH problems. Barriers that PCPs face in identification, referral, and treatment of MH problems were also assessed. Analyses were weighted for nonresponse; group differences were assessed via Rao-Scott χ2 test and weighted regression analyses.Results:
Approximately half of PCPs and CAPs returned the survey. With the exception of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the majority of PCPs and CAPs agreed that pediatricians should be responsible for identifying and referring, but not treating child MH conditions. For ADHD, PCPs were more likely than CAPs to agree that pediatricians should identify and treat affected children. PCPs were more likely than CAPs to agree that pediatricians should be responsible for identifying child/adolescent depression and anxiety disorders; the majority of both groups agree that PCPs should be responsible for referring, but not treating these conditions. Both groups agree that lack of MH services is a barrier to identification, treatment, and referral of child MH problems for PCPs. CAPs were more likely to agree that pediatrician's lack of training in identifying child mental health problems was a barrier, whereas PCPs were more likely to endorse lack of confidence in their ability to treat child MH problems with counseling, long waiting periods to see MH providers, family failure to follow through on referrals, and billing/reimbursement issues as barriers.Conclusions:
Most PCPs and CAPs believe it is pediatricians' responsibility to identify and refer, but not treat, the majority of children's mental health problems. Both groups agree that mental health services are not readily available. Future efforts are needed to support PCPs and CAPs in their combined effort to address the mental health needs of children.