When children are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they often receive only one part of their recommended therapy—the medication component. But alone, that’s not the most effective treatment, says University of Minnesota psychiatry professor Gerald August, Ph.D.
The recommended treatment plan—and especially the behavioral therapy component—often gets left behind because families don’t have the time or resources to apply it, he says.
But complete care is important. ADHD isn’t just a childhood disorder. Children don’t always “grow out of” ADHD, which is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. When it continues into adulthood, the disorder can affect a person’s ability to stay organized or stick with a project, job, or relationship, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Some people with ADHD also may experience anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities.
“ADHD is a lifetime disorder,” August says. “With that recognition, we have the understanding that we probably need to rethink the way we are delivering services.”
That’s why he and a group of colleagues are developing a “medical home” care model to improve treatment for children and adolescents who have ADHD. Currently, most kids with ADHD are treated by pediatricians or family physicians, who simply don’t have the time or resources to provide the comprehensive care these patients need, August says.
But August and his colleagues are working with the West Metro Pediatric Behavioral Health Collaborative, which includes a network of pediatric clinics in Twin Cities suburbs, to make their vision a reality. The program they’ve created includes evidence-based, culturally sensitive, family-centered principles of care.
Central to the program are a health care coordinator—a person who works with families, assists physicians, and collaborates with educators to collect assessment and treatment data—and a continuous care program to make sure no one falls between the cracks. The program also will incorporate a web-based tool to foster better communication among families and care providers as well as a fast-track referral system to behavioral health specialists as needed.
August and his partners are waiting to hear whether they’ll receive grants they’ve applied for to help get the program off the ground. They plan to start implementing it in December—with or without grant funding—but they’re hoping that philanthropy can help sustain the program for the months and years to come.
“Without funding for the long-term future, we probably won’t get very far,” August says.
To learn more about how you can support this program, contact Shannon Birge Laudon of the Minnesota Medical Foundation at 612-626-3186 or firstname.lastname@example.org.