Physicians Spearhead Transformation of Mental Health Services in Lowell, Massachusetts
// By Cheryl L. Serra //
Physical health and mental health are typically siloed in healthcare. Dr. Megan Cardoso sought to integrate them, for the benefit of pediatric patients and their families. With demand for resources that far out-paced resources, she turned to a technology solution.
Nationally, more than 2.5 million youth in the U.S. have severe depression, according to The State of Mental Health in America, a report published by Mental Health America. Multiracial youth are at greatest risk. According to the report, 10.6 percent of youth in the U.S. have severe major depression, or depression that severely affects functioning, with the rate highest among youth who identified as more than one race, at 14.5 percent — more than one in every seven multiracial youth.
Lowell, Massachusetts is a former mill and industrial area. The fourth largest city in Massachusetts, Lowell is diverse and more than 25 percent of its residents under the age of 18 live in poverty. The community, like the nation, has a huge mental health problem that was exacerbated by COVID.
For Megan Cardoso, MD, those numbers are more than statistics. Dr. Cardoso holds many titles: Medical Director, Population Health, Lowell General Hospital Physicians Hospital Organization; Medical Director of Pediatrics, Wellforce Care Plan ACO; and Attending Physician, Chelmsford Pediatrics. She has seen the faces of these young people and empathized with the concern etched on their families’ faces. She often worried about them when they left her office.
But then a group of Lowell area physicians decided that mental health was the number one problem they wanted to solve and took action. Limited access to mental health providers was a major obstacle. The physicians turned to a scalable solution from Synchronous Health to extend their services.
The results of the overall effort, as one physician told Dr. Cardoso, have been “practice changing.”
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