The news: The HHS doled out $10.7 million in funding to the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program, which will use the cash to provide telehealth-related training and technical assistance to US providers to diagnose and treat kids and teens with mental health conditions.
Why this matters: The pandemic threw gasoline on the pediatric mental health fire—mental health services and therapy services only became more inaccessible for kids.
Emergency departments around the US are reporting an influx of pediatric mental health patients, but there simply aren't enough providers to deliver sufficient care.
Plus, some pediatricians say they lack training on how to treat kids’ mental health concerns since they’re more used to treating conditions like ear infections, per STAT. To this end, funding for broader pediatric mental health training from the HHS can help pediatricians become more well-versed in treating conditions like depression and anxiety.
What’s next? Boosting pediatric telemental health access will likely become a priority this year for not only the US gov’t, but also telehealth vendors.
In addition to the HHS’ moves to fund pediatric virtual care, some telehealth vendors have recognized the largely untapped market opportunity for pediatric mental health.
An untapped opportunity: Teens often prefer communicating via texting rather than face-to-face—which means focusing on text-based therapy is a smart bet for telehealth vendors that want to boost engagement with younger patients.
Gen Zers (kids and teens 6+) are digital natives—and texting can create a more meaningful connection than video visits alone.
A few telehealth vendors already offer text-based therapy for kids, but we could see giants like Teladoc hop on the bandwagon given early success with the format.