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Program offers virtual help for kid's mental health

File- (Edmond Parks)

A map of Oklahoma is shown to explain which counties have access to behavior and mental health care providers for children.

Mental health in children has been a hot topic lately. Oklahoma City schools recently announced the closure of up to twenty schools, with the intent of giving kids more access to mental health help and other resources.

Mercy Hospital is also jumping on the mental health train. They announced a new virtual program for kids all over Oklahoma who don't have access to counseling, psychiatry and psychology.

Doctors said there's a mental health care provider shortage in America, and especially Oklahoma. Some counties the state, have none. As a result, kids who might suffer with things like ADHD or anxiety and depression, may not ever get the help they need.

Dr. Elizabeth McCabe, a pediatrician said, "This just really allows us to get quick access to our patients, so that we can better serve them."

She added, she believes a mental health check should be a crucial part of your child's checkup.

"Really about twenty percent of kids in the U.S. suffer from a mental illness or some kind of mental issue," She said.

The common issues doctors said they face here at home, include Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, anxiety and depression. Which is actually said to be rapidly increasing in young people.

McCabe said, "Some of these issues do, you know, can last until adulthood. And so, we know that if we, again, can treat and diagnose early, it can really help them in the long run. Especially into adulthood."

With the new virtual program, doctors can get nearly instant access to mental health professionals based out of Saint Louis. It can be as simple as a phone call and in some cases, an observation with the patient using an iPad.

"They give you a really good step by step plan,” McCabe said, “and so, it's not just, 'hey, start this medicine or do this,' they really delve into therapy’s, they delve into screening tools. I just have found it really beneficial to my patients so they're not having to wait months to see a mental health specialist."

The alternative, in rural parts of Oklahoma especially, might mean months of waiting before children can be seen by a professional.

Mercy said there are thirty trained doctors around the state, including smaller towns where access to help like this is more limited.

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