Teen mental health issues have become a nationwide public health crisis. Legacy Community Health and University of Houston College of Medicine Albert Schweitzer Fellows Teen Health Initiative Survey found that 37% of about 2,000 teens ages 11 to 18 say their main health concern is their mental health. The state of Texas and health care leaders, including managed care organizations (MCOs), are working to address this crisis by actively reducing barriers to mental health care and expanding access to underserved areas.
CareSource Bayou Health, a partnership between CareSource, a renowned nonprofit Medicaid MCO, and Legacy Community Health, Texas’ largest federally qualified health center (FQHC), has found innovative approaches to reach teens through online resources and collaborations with schools and other sectors. The joint venture aims to provide preventive, life-saving behavioral and mental health care to Texas teens in need.
Redefining how teens receive mental health care in a digital environment
As many teens felt isolated during the pandemic, Legacy Community Health created TeenWell. The digital platform was developed alongside teens and parents, ensuring a safe environment for youth to learn essential medical information and how to approach medical professionals about their concerns. TeenWell helps adolescents and their parents discover ways to improve their future, increase financial literacy, understand their bodies and minds, how to make a difference in the community through voting and volunteering, instilling healthy habits and more. With a decline in teens visiting primary care doctors as they grow, TeenWell helps adolescents and their parents access critical resources to help them thrive outside of medical facilities.
CareSource is reimagining mental health care for approximately 19,200 teens enrolled in Indiana’s Hoosier Healthwise Medicaid coverage through a partnership with BeMe, a science-backed app designed alongside adolescents through a teen advisory board that provides feedback on content. The app, offering live coaching, crisis support and more, serves as an early intervention tool, bridges gaps between appointments and encourages healthy practices after receiving treatment. As teens spend more time online, they encounter struggles that are hard to navigate and have immense effects on mental health. Integrating teens' input alongside evidence-based tools is critical to the success of digital health platforms and ensures high engagement among youth.
Strong collaborations expand mental health access to youth and underserved communities
CareSource Bayou Health extends valuable support outside of the doctor's office through partnerships with impactful organizations. Collaborations across various sectors, including schools and social services, are key to developing prevention strategies to combat suffering and loneliness. By supporting education systems, CareSource Bayou Health reaches youth experiencing poor mental health who struggle to access essential care.
Legacy Community Health is working directly with schools and parents through its School-Based Health Program which has opened clinics inside of 37 Houston-area schools and offers students on-site medical and behavioral health from licensed nurse practitioners, physician assistants and licensed mental health professionals. The program has assisted KIPP, YES Prep and Galena Park Independent School District in addressing health and wellness concerns. The School-Based Health Program supports both children and families and has helped students reach their health goals. One 16-year-old student, with the help of a dedicated nurse practitioner, lost more than 60 pounds after developing an exercise and nutrition plan, drastically improving their mental health, endurance and self-confidence.
Together, CareSource and Legacy Community Health are making an immense impact through CareSource Bayou Health. In November 2022, the CareSource Foundation opened the Texas Grant Challenge to community-based organizations and nonprofits working to improve the health and well-being of mothers, infants, children and families across Texas. The first place recipient, the Samaritan Counseling Center of Southeast Texas (SCCSET), was awarded a $50,000 grant to provide wellness screenings for students which monitor for anxiety, depression, stress, suicidal ideation, substance use, strengths and difficulties and social determinants of health. Case managers and school counseling staff determine if students need follow-up clinical sessions and outside resources based on the screenings. Those who screen positive for suicidal ideation are connected with a trained mental health professional and crisis resources within 24 hours. Legal guardians are notified of the child’s emotional state and are involved in the healing process. The program will allow SCCSET to reach more families in the community than ever before. Many parents and siblings of students in the program have enrolled in counseling, leading to significant improvements in the home lives of youth.
The joint venture also supports Communities In Schools of Houston (CIS) Mental Health Initiative and Communities in Schools of Southeast Texas (CISSET) in achieving their goal of helping students and families access quality mental health services. The CIS Mental Health Initiative has served school campuses for over a decade, placing full-time licensed mental health professionals on school campuses, dispatching a mobile mental health team to provide short-term, solution-based mental health services and partnering with community mental health agencies to provide students with additional resources such as counseling and support groups. CareSource Bayou Health’s support helps the organizations improve student socioemotional health, promote academic achievement and alleviate suffering.
The adoption of digital care solutions and collaborations across various sectors have been crucial in helping the state of Texas and health care leaders effectively reach teens needing assistance. CareSource Bayou Health has made great contributions towards improving teen mental health through transformative partnerships and remains committed to providing vital support and lifesaving services to families in Southeast Texas.