Dr. Cori Green Awarded Youth Cope Grant to Address Youth Mental Health Crisis

The Department is pleased to announce that Dr. Cori Green, Vice Chair of Behavioral Health in Pediatrics has been awarded the Department of Pediatrics Youth Cope Grant. This grant will support Dr. Green's project, "Re-Launching Youth Cope: Improving Access and Expanding the Workforce to Address the Mental Health Crisis."

Dr. Green's project is a response to the critical issue of youth mental health, which was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, many behavioral health problems affecting children and adolescents often went undetected. Even when recognized, families faced significant challenges in accessing appropriate care. During the pandemic, rates of anxiety and depression in youth doubled, emergency room visits for suicidality increased, and pediatricians were inundated with distressed patients.

Our department’s pediatric primary care practice was no exception to these challenges. In response, the "Youth Cope" program was initiated at the height of the pandemic to provide short-term, integrated, virtual care for youth and families with new or ongoing mental health concerns. Dr. Corinne Catarozoli, assistant professor of psychology in clinical psychiatry and pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine, co-directed the program and utilized a team of dedicated volunteer providers, including psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, psychology/psychiatry trainees, and pediatric residents, who were redeployed due to hospital closures.

Youth Cope provided care based on the principles of psychological first aid (PFA) and brief cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) interventions. Psychological first aid is an evidence-informed approach designed to manage distress and facilitate coping, often used in the aftermath of disasters or traumatic events and can be delivered by a variety of mental health and allied providers. Similarly, brief interventions are endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics as the initial step that providers should take once a mental health concern is identified. However, many pediatricians still lack confidence in integrating mental health into their practice and do not follow this recommendation.

Youth Cope suspended its operations as the initial surge of COVID-19 subsided as volunteer clinicians returned to their regular duties which limited the program's sustainability. Now, the program is relaunching with a new implementation strategy that involves pediatric trainees delivering care under the guidance of Dr. Catarozoli. The program's new objectives will be to evaluate its effectiveness in improving access to care, reducing mental health symptoms, and appropriately triaging referrals.  The goal is to refer youth with higher levels of mental health needs to psychiatry, and care for most youth within the pediatric setting.  Additionally, it aims to gauge the acceptability, feasibility, and impact of an implementation strategy that involves pediatric trainees in delivering care, as measured by patient engagement, satisfaction, and provider self-efficacy.

This project represents an important step towards improving the mental well-being of our youth and enhancing access to essential mental health services and underscores the department’s unwavering commitment to addressing the pressing issue of youth mental health.

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