Teens With Disabilities More Likely To Have Mental, Emotional And Behavioral Disorders, Researchers Find | State and regional

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CHICAGO – The pandemic has revealed some truths: a lack of mental health providers to sufficiently meet the needs of people in crisis (including providers of color); and the stress that COVID-19 has introduced is felt by all ages, with mental health coping strategies being developed to help. Another truth is that young people with disabilities report poorer mental health than their peers without disabilities. Teens with disabilities are up to five times more likely to suffer from mental, emotional and behavioral disorders than teens without disabilities, according to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Kristin Berg, UIC Associate Professor of Disability and Human Development in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, tackles the latter problem as Co-Principal Investigator of the Behavioral Health Stratified Treatment (BEST project) – a new five-year, $ 7 million study (funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute) that will assess the integration of mental health services as part of the state’s care coordination services instead of press referrals to mental health services.






UIC Associate Professor Kristin Lee Berg supervises her scholarship class under the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopment and Associated Disabilities (LEND) program from her home office on November 11, 2021 in the suburbs of Lincolnshire. Prof. Berg is the training director for the program, which helps graduate students learn about the health and well-being of people with disabilities.


John J. Kim, Chicago Tribune


“Often times, physiotherapy, occupational therapy (occupational therapy) and speech-language pathology services take priority,” Berg said. “As a country, we have not prioritized mental health care in the sense of affordable and easily accessible health care. For people with disabilities this has been thousands (of) times more complex given the barriers to access and the lack of mental health providers around the world who are trained to care for people with intellectual disabilities. and autism.

As a person with a disability, Berg said a variety of factors come into play when a family tries to seek depression / anxiety care for a child with autism – with providers who say they “don’t. Not Treat Intellectual Disability “Search for a provider who has particular disability issues to find a provider with an accessible location. Berg added that often when a person with a disability is in treatment, symptoms of depression or anxiety are blamed on the disability, when this is not always the case. Another challenge: Recognize that people with disabilities are more likely to experience trauma.

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“In my own research, clinical or anecdotal, I have heard many cases of people with disabilities being abused and neglected,” Berg said. “When people with disabilities come into the office, there is this medical model that focuses on their disability. They only treat the symptoms of this medical condition. Often behavioral health feels like it’s in that other silo. Due to the silos of training and profession, many primary care physicians or specialists are not trained in behavioral health, and behavioral health personnel are not trained in intellectual and developmental disabilities. This is another factor that we see … these professions do not dialogue and people with disabilities who suffer from comorbid depression / anxiety fall through the cracks.

Jennifer Hernandez agrees. As a family nurse practitioner and parent of Camille, aka Cami, 14, who has autism, Hernandez said since being diagnosed at 17 months, it’s been a battle with insurance, education, IEPs and resources.

“You have a patient with a pain in his chest, he’s on this table within 24 hours. Do you have a child who is having thoughts of suicide? You go to the emergency room, you wait hours to be assessed, ”she said. “This is how we treat our children in this country. It’s amazing and shocking, and it’s sad. The emotional trauma that a family is already going through and then you put that in your head? “

“We don’t currently have a system where we can say to ourselves, ‘Oh, someone with a developmental disability and / or autism needs mental health support? Let’s give them this therapy, ”said Nahime Aguirre Mtanous, 2021-2022 intern in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program, which provides next-level training designed to improve the health and well-being of people with disabilities. “We don’t have therapy that can best help them. “

As snow first accumulated this winter in the Chicago area on December 28, residents of the city and suburbs filmed their furry friends.



From fall 2022, UIC researchers plan to enroll and monitor 780 adolescents (aged 13 to 20, in urban and rural areas) with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families for 24 months to collect their experiences on the health system. During the study, researchers will follow how adolescents feel and their health behaviors by asking questions about anxiety and depression, health, health habits, functioning, ability to cope with health care and self-efficacy.

The team will also assess how satisfied adolescents, parents and health care providers are with the care coordination experience. All participants will receive care coordination from the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Services Agency, but half of the participants will also receive the Behavioral Health CHECK component. CHECK provides Community Health Workers and Behavioral Health Coordinators to help and support Medicaid recipients by intervening preventively and improving the referral process in the areas of physical, behavioral and social health.

Berg’s Hope with Study: Early Identification and Treatment of Depression / Anxiety Through a Public Health Service Entry Point to Improve Lifelong Health and Career Paths for Young People with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“It’s in everyone’s best interest to intervene early and prevent the crises that we are seeing now where children are hospitalized, go to residential facilities, they are in the hospital for days with these mental health crises,” which is much more expensive than if we intervene early and provide effective and brief cognitive behavioral therapy services, ”said Berg. “We want to eliminate all of those extra steps for families who are already stressed and faced with a lot of things. “

Integrating people with disabilities more generally into psychiatric and psychological therapy services, adapting commonly used interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy and study programs so that they are accessible to people with different types of disabilities is to be l agenda of Berg’s research team, filled with disability actors and investigators with disabilities. Focus groups will give advice on language, activities, visual aids and strategies on how it is implemented.

“By maximizing function and participation, each of our systems improves – care of the elderly, care of young families,” said Dr. Michael Msall, professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago.

“The results of this study will create new knowledge about models of care coordination that lead to better mental health and transition outcomes, as well as the model preferred by young people with disabilities and their families,” said the researcher. study principal, Dr Benjamin Van Voorhees. , professor at UIC and head of the pediatrics department at the Faculty of Medicine. “Such knowledge can lead to systematic changes in the way depression and anxiety are identified and treated in this population, potentially reducing existing barriers to accessing behavioral health care that disproportionately impact young people.” racial and ethnic minorities with disabilities. “



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