Its genesis rooted in the personal experiences of its founder, the soon-to-open Children’s Integrated Center for Success (CICS) will be the first facility in the Lehigh Valley where physicians may refer young patients for unified, streamlined behavioral health care.
After her second daughter’s early diagnosis with an autism spectrum disorder, Amy Edgar, CRNP, FNP-C, drew on 20 years of experience as an advanced practice nurse in the family mental health arena to find behavioral care. Yet no local facility offered these services in an integrated, organized fashion.
“My family spent a lot of time moving from provider to provider, piecing the services together from multiple facilities,” Edgar recounts. “No place provided seamless care, and the whole process was a challenge. The idea to fully integrate behavioral health services comes directly from our personal life as a family.”
Slated to open its doors in February, CICS will offer comprehensive behavioral health services for children and adolescents struggling with anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorders or mood disorders. To do so, CICS has brought together under one roof specialists from a range of disciplines, including credentialed providers experienced in:
- Team-based diagnostic evaluation
- Behavioral and play therapy
- Occupational and speech therapy
- Nutritional counseling
- Child and adolescent pharmacology
- Family and individual counseling
- Academic services, including evaluation and coaching
- Neuropsychiatric testing
Novel Use of Advanced Technology
Innovative application of leading-edge technology will enhance the care the CICS team provides. For instance, Studiocode is an analytics tool that records video footage for use in performance improvement. But in a utilization of Studiocode previously employed only in academic research settings, CICS built the technology into its customized playroom to improve upon traditional methods of behavioral intervention for children and situational coaching for parents.
Amy Edgar, CRNP, FNP-C
Prior to entering the playroom, therapists identify specific verbal and nonverbal behaviors to be assessed. A camera records the session as therapists guide children through a series of tasks or social interventions. Afterward, Studiocode analyzes the recording and determines how often and under what circumstances the pre-coded behaviors occurred.
“This technology is a great tool for providing feedback to children,” Edgar explains. “I can take the video-captured data and show children the times when they succeeded, as well as the times when their performance wasn’t quite as good. Then, we use this to inform their next practice session. This system gives immediate feedback in terms of coaching that’s often missing when doing this kind of work with children.”
Although not the first line of defense, medication may be necessary for some patients. CICS providers use Genomind’s state-of-the-art Genecept Assay to tailor medication regimens to each patient’s needs.
Providers take a saliva swab from patients and mail it to Genomind laboratory technicians, who analyze the sample and work up a report that includes results and clinical interpretations. Based on these reports, CICS clinicians personalize medical and psychopharmacological therapies to meet the specific DNA and metabolic profile of each child.
A New Model
Plans for the future include the integration of primary care into CICS’ comprehensive behavioral health offerings, which will enhance its service line as well as further ease the burden on parents by providing access to well and sick visits, immunizations, and other preventive services.
By integrating behavioral and primary health care into one entity, CICS will seek to eliminate what can often be chaotic navigation between two systems.
“The current model in integrated medicine is to take an existing medical practice and integrate behavioral health services, so consultation and some behavioral health services are provided within that practice,” Edgar explains. “We’ve flipped that model and are bringing an integrated medical approach into our behavioral health practice.”
A Place for SUCCESS
More broadly, Edgar envisions CICS as a place where all facets of care unite under the SUCCESS model. Providers will join together to ensure they meet the needs of every child and family.
“SUCCESS is built around the participatory model of medicine, in which the family or patient is the driver, the recognized expert of their own life,” Edgar says. “On the provider side, we’re here to coach, assist, educate and support in order to provide the best quality of life for the child and family.”
Beginning with the symptoms that prompt the family’s search for services, the SUCCESS model emphasizes a big-picture understanding of the child’s functional and family issues, which can be addressed through coaching, counseling, educational planning, strategic medical interventions and support.
“With the right support and intervention, children with behavioral health needs can live incredibly successful lives,” Edgar explains. “This model, which underscores all aspects of care, represents our support of these children until they have the skills and neurological maturity so they no longer need us and can go on to live functional, high-quality lives.”
Edgar encourages providers to refer at the first sign of behavioral health symptomatology so that children may be evaluated and receive care as soon as possible.
“The earlier the referral, the better chance for a good outcome,” she says. “We see ourselves as partners in the overall health services available in the Lehigh Valley. Our outcomes-based methodology enhanced by advanced technology and programming can be a vital resource for providers managing patients with behavioral health issues.”