New program screens children for mental health issues

June 16, 2017 | By Dave Fopay

There were a few times in the last week that the child patients Donzell Lampkins saw showed signs of mental conditions that reached what he called “crisis level.”

As a behavioral health clinician, Lampkins feels a new screening program for mental issues has been a good fit with other medical services children get at the clinic where he works.

“It’s safe to say that if they were not engaged in services here, the crises might not have been addressed or they might have resulted in something more drastic,” he said.

Lampkins works with a new program called ICARE Kids that started with a grant that the LifeLinks Mental Health Center in Mattoon received. He works at the Charleston Health Center, a clinic with SIHF Healthcare, a foundation that provides health services to several Illinois counties.

He and others involved with the program said the goal is to provide mental health screenings for children who might not otherwise receive them.

“It’s definitely met its purpose of making sure patients don’t fall through the cracks,” Lampkins said.

LifeLinks received a grant of more than $420,000 from the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation to start the ICARE Kids program.

It’s already operating at SIHF Healthcare clinics in Charleston, Mattoon, Greenup and Effingham and is scheduled to begin later this year at the foundation’s facilities in Olney, Salem and Vandalia.

Children ages 5-18, mostly from low-income families, receive medical and dental care at the clinics. The new program will add mental health screenings, which didn’t take place there before.

The clinics were the primary care locations for 5,760 families during the foundation’s 2015-16 fiscal year, according to Callie Livingston, ICARE Kids coordinator.

“We knew we had this many families and we knew there was the potential for mental health issues,” Livingston said of the need for the program.

At the Charleston clinic, family nurse practitioner Dannelle Jackson said she sees children who possibly need mental health treatment “it’s safe to say at least weekly.”

She’s worked at the Charleston clinic since it opened in 2014 and said that this week, with ICARE Kids available, was the first time able to do more than give a child medicine for a condition and make a referral for mental health services as well.

The people involved in the program also said there are benefits of having mental health services at the same location as where the patients receive other health care.

Much of that is taking away the “stigma” of going somewhere specifically for mental health treatment and making it more convenient by having the screenings where other care takes place, they said

“We’re trying to get some of those younger kids,” Livingston said. “That way we can prevent more severe mental illness later.”

Also, parents who have concerns about their children’s behavior, possibly because of “adjustment issues” such as a new school or a change in family life, can arrange for them to be screened, Livingston also said.

A LifeLinks announcement about the program said people can contact Livingston or one of the SIHF Healthcare clinics for more information about the ICARE Kids program.

Livingston can be reached at 217-238-5718. Phone numbers for the area clinics are: Charleston 217-345-7702; Mattoon 217-234-3091; Greenup 217-923-3311.