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Responding to Adolescent Depression through Integration and Telemedicine

  • Program: Mental Health
  • Adolescents are experiencing a behavioral health (BH) epidemic both nationwide and in Michigan (MI). Anxiety, depression, and stress related disorders have been rising steadily for decades. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, acute mental health episodes have become so prevalent that in December 2021, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy issued an urgent public health advisory calling attention to the issue. Due to social and economic disparities, adolescents in rural areas face a higher burden of mental illness and BH access challenges. Non-urban areas experience increased poverty rates, geographic isolation, stigma, and a lack of treatment anonymity, all contributing to higher rates of mental illness and access gaps. Fortunately, accumulating evidence shows that BH integration, particularly in combination with telehealth, is highly effective for improving adolescent access to BH care. The Responding to Adolescent Depression through Integration and Telemedicine (RAD-IT) program was a two-year pilot program funded by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, implemented by Altarum in collaboration with the Michigan Center for Rural Health and the Upper Midwest Telehealth Resource Center. From September 2019- December 2021, Altarum delivered training, technical assistance, and evidence-based resources to rural primary care clinicians to help them address adolescent BH in their communities. The program impacted more than 2,000 adolescents, increased clinician knowledge and confidence, improved adolescent depression screening and follow-up, and decreased the severity of adolescent depression among those who screened as at-risk. The program also identified important trends in depression among rural adolescents. Finally, the program showcased how primary care clinicians can integrate adolescent BH care into practice, how it impacts patients, and the barriers they face. The RAD-IT program demonstrated how BH integration and telemedicine can be used to improve adolescent depression screening, treatment, and follow-up in rural primary care practices. It also helped uncover what program investments are likely to be most and least impactful when addressing adolescent BH. This session will describe the insights and recommendations learned under RAD-IT. With a growing national mental health burden and BH workforce shortage, these lessons learned are of paramount importance to expanding integration and telemedicine efforts nationwide.
Jessica McDuff
Altarum Institute
Program Director, Behavioral Health
  • Linked Session ID: 945133
  • Authors: Haley McCrary, MPH
    Altarum Institute
  • Learning Outcome 1: Describe an innovative program designed to address adolescent depression in rural Michigan through integration and telemedicine.
  • Learning Outcome 2: Discuss the program findings, recommendations, and lessons learned.
  • Learning Outcome 3: Demonstrate how integration and telemedicine can be used nationwide to improve adolescent behavioral health in rural areas and beyond.
  • Linked Session Title: Integrated Behavioral Health, Mental Health and Substance Use Poster session