Connecting health care, early childhood and mental health sectors: Results of Physician Survey on Early Childhood Mental Health Practices

Emily Meissen-Sebelius, Analyst, MSW, Kansas Health Institute


Catherine Shoults, Analyst, MPH

Ivan Williams, Senior Analyst, MBA


Emily Meissen-Sebelius- Emily has worked as an analyst for the Kansas Health Institute since 2009, with her work focusing on children’s health and mental health, Medicaid and federal health reform issues. Before joining KHI, Emily served as the director of the Child and Youth Mental Health Initiative at Mental Health America of the Heartland in Kansas City, Kan.

Catherine Shoults-As an analyst for Kansas Health Institute, Catherine has focused on early childhood mental health, immunization practices in Kansas, and Health Impact Assessments.  Catherine's background includes an MPH from Yale University with an emphasis in infectious disease epidemiology and a certificate in emergency preparedness and disaster response. 

Ivan S. Williams—Ivan conducts research on health policy and public health issues such as Early Childhood Mental Health, Health Insurance Coverage and the Uninsured, and Health Impact Assessments.  Prior to joining KHI, Ivan was a senior auditor with the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit and an outcomes/performance improvement coordinator for a regional psychiatric hospital and behavioral health care organization.

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Learning Objectives:

Participants will gain knowledge about current practices in screening, referral and treatment for early childhood mental health among Kansas physicians.

Participants will increase understanding of the importance of screening and referral for young children and families related to social emotional development or mental health concerns.

Participants will be introduced to examples of efforts in Kansas to improve physician screening and referral. Participants will engage in discussion about implications of survey results and share information about efforts in the Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri regions to improve early childhood mental health screening, connection to services and workforce capacity.

Description:  Research shows that screening by primary care physicians, such as pediatricians or family physicians, is effective at identifying children with mental health concerns. Early identification in young children, combined with appropriate support and effective treatment, could help prepare them for kindergarten, minimize their future mental health problems and allow them to experience good overall physical and mental health later in life.

This presentation will focus on results from the survey of Kansas primary care physicians related to screening, referral and treatment for early childhood mental health.  Presenters will highlight survey results including the differences between rural and urban physicians, what tools are being used to determine mental health or social-emotional concerns in young children (ages 0-5), and when and where Kansas physicians are referring their patients. 

The session will conclude with important next steps for research and practice in this field, including a time for discussion among audience members about the significance of the results for their work with young children and families.  Participants in this session will learn about existing efforts in Kansas to improve physician education and connection to services, as well as efforts to build capacity in the early childhood mental health workforce.