Seattle Children’s Expands Mental and Behavioral Health Services in Benton and Franklin Counties with PAL Plus Pilot

Pilot program addresses community need with increased access to behavioral health providers for underserved and economically disadvantaged children

Seattle Children’s has launched PAL Plus, a pilot program that increases access to mental and behavioral health services for underserved and economically disadvantaged children in Benton and Franklin counties. PAL Plus, the first program of its kind in the state, offers in-person counseling sessions with local behavioral health providers and will track the mental health treatment progress and outcomes of its patients.

“Mental and behavioral health concerns have become increasingly common reasons why children visit their primary care providers,” said Dr. Robert Hilt, who led the design of the program and serves as the Director of Partnership Access Line (PAL) and Community Leadership at Seattle Children’s. “Providing adequate mental and behavioral health support for children is a challenge everywhere, but especially in rural areas of our state. We are hoping to change that with PAL Plus.”

A 2015 report from Mental Health in America revealed that about 46% of children in Washington state who needed mental health services did not receive them, which is higher than the national average of 39%. Currently, there are only six mental health treatment facilities recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that treat children in Benton and Franklin Counties and serve a population of about 275,000 people.

The primary goal of PAL Plus is to equip primary care providers in Benton and Franklin Counties with an evidence-supported system of mental and behavioral care that provides rapidly accessed direct mental health support for their patients exhibiting either signs of depression or significant disruptive behavior.

State Sen. Sharon Brown has been a strong advocate for PAL Plus on Washington’s Senate Health Care Committee and played a pivotal role in ensuring the development of the program.

“The lack of accessibility to mental and behavioral healthcare for both children and adults has had far-reaching consequences throughout our country and state,” Brown said. “Thanks to the commitment of local providers, Seattle Children’s and the people of Benton and Franklin Counties, we have an opportunity to help children and families in the area with a care model that directly addresses this issue.”

PAL Plus accepts patients ages 5 to 18 years old who meet the following criteria:

  • Reside in Franklin or Benton County
  • Have Washington state insurance coverage, including Medicaid
  • Have a diagnosis of mild-to-moderate depression or disruptive behavior
  • Are not already enrolled in services at a mental health agency

Seattle Children’s collaborates with behavioral health service providers from Catholic Child & Family Service and Lourdes Counseling Center who provide counseling sessions and screenings for eligibility. The PAL Plus team also includes child and adolescent psychiatrists and psychologists affiliated with the University of Washington School of Medicine and Seattle Children’s who are available for further patient support.

PAL Plus is an expansion of Seattle Children’s current PAL program, a telephone-based child mental health consultation system available to primary care providers in Washington and Wyoming.

For more information about PAL Plus, call 206-987-2753 or email PALPlus@seattlechildrens.org.

About Seattle Children’s

Seattle Children’s mission is to provide hope, care and cures to help every child live the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible. Together, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Research Institute and Foundation deliver superior patient care, identify new discoveries and treatments through pediatric research, and raise funds to create better futures for patients.

Ranked as one of the top five children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical center for Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho – the largest region of any children’s hospital in the country. As one of the nation's top five pediatric research centers, Seattle Children’s Research Institute is internationally recognized for its work in neurosciences, immunology, cancer, infectious disease, injury prevention and much more. Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Foundation works with the Seattle Children’s Guild Association, the largest all-volunteer fundraising network for any hospital in the country, to gather community support and raise funds for uncompensated care and research.

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