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UH Moment: UH Health Family Care Center Awarded $1.3M for Child and Family Mental Health Programs

“We want to think beyond the clinic and have some community connections so we can recognize mental health concerns early and intervene”

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The UH Health Family Care Center at the Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine has received $1.3 million in federal funds to establish new mental health programs for children, adolescents and families in Houston's underserved communities.

The award, which was distributed by Harris County Public Health, is part of the American Recovery Plan Act, a federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic with money specifically designated for behavioral health.

"COVID affected mental health in all communities," said David Curtis, practicing clinical psychologist at the Family Care Center and chief behavioral officer for the Fertitta Family College of Medicine. "But the impact in historically marginalized and underserved neighborhoods like Third Ward, where the University of Houston is, and the East End was much greater. Those communities were much more vulnerable."

According to Curtis, one in five children meets the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition, but many never seek treatment due to limited financial resources or other factors. Those who do seek help often only see a primary care physician. The Family Care Center features an innovative, integrated behavioral health model of care that allows for comprehensive primary care without neglecting the mental health needs of patients, since psychologists/psychiatrists work inside the clinic alongside medical doctors.

Bill Elder, also a clinical psychologist at the Family Care Center and chair of the Behavioral and Social Sciences Department at the Fertitta Family College of Medicine, believes the program could significantly impact the mental health of nearby communities.

"The goal of this program is to increase our capacity to provide evidence-based services for children and their families," Elder said. "And we want to think beyond the clinic and have some community connections so we can recognize mental health concerns early and intervene, so people aren't waiting to get help."

"This is a two-year award that will allow us to hire, onboard and train a number of new, key clinical personnel," Curtis said. "We'll add six new providers at the clinic, including another child psychologist and our first child psychiatrist, as well as two community health workers who will help us build relationships so we can get these kids the care and support they need."

Among the project's specific goals:

  • Dedicated outpatient mental health services that include counseling, psychotherapy, psychiatric evaluation and medication management for children, youth and their families at the clinic.
  • Behavioral health care coordination and clinical school liaison services for elementary, middle and high school-aged patients.
  • In-home mental health first aid, integrated behavioral health consultation and coordination of community and social services.
  • Integrated behavioral health services provided within pediatric primary care visits at the clinic.

The Family Care Center is located in the University of Houston's Health 2 building at 4349 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, suite 1001E. Most major insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, are accepted. For patients without insurance, a sliding fee discount program is available based on income and household size. Same-day and next-day appointments are available and walk-in patients are welcome. Bi-lingual providers are available.

New patients can call 832-UHCARES or use the web form to schedule an appointment. Virtual visits are available for established patients via patient portal.

Click here for more information on the UH Health Family Care Center.

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