Children’s Mental Illness on the Rise: How One Project Looks to Address This Issue

May 22, 2018 · NCQA

A strong stigma still surrounds mental illness. That’s troubling when you look at just how many people are affected by mental health issues.

That number is rising. According to a study conducted by Columbia University and the SUNY Graduate School of Public Health, depression diagnoses increased from 6.6% to 7.3% between 2005 and 2015.

The group with the largest jump? Teenagers and young adults: 8.7% in 2005 to 12.7% in 2015.

This May, we observe Mental Health Month by highlighting a research activity led by NCQA. It’s called the National Collaborative for Innovation in Quality Measurement (NCINQ). It’s a group of organizations working together to implement and improve measures that address pediatric behavioral healthcare. Our research team works alongside others from New York University, the New York State Office of Mental Health and Youth MOVE National.

With a grant from the Agency on Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under the Pediatric Quality Measures Program, NCINQ aims to strengthen the implementation and use of pediatric quality measures and to improve two specific areas of behavioral health: safe and judicious use of antipsychotics in children and adolescents and adolescent depression management.

What’s The Goal?

NCINQ is running a learning collaborative with five New York-based Medicaid health plans to implement quality measures to specifically improve the safe and judicious use of antipsychotics in children and adolescents. Considering the serious side effects of these medications, the measures emphasize a “think before prescribing, and if prescribed, monitor” approach.

This summer, NCINQ will launch a similar program focused on quality improvement for adolescent depression management using HEDIS depression measures and reporting data using electronic clinical data systems. We are seeking health plans that are interested to participate in this two-year initiative.

Once both programs are in place, NCINQ will analyze the results of the plans’ approach. We want to learn what works—and what doesn’t—to improve care. Ultimately, we want to share lessons learned and best practices with state policymakers, health plans and providers. They can then begin to craft their own plans and programs to improve behavioral healthcare for children and adolescents.

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