A digital platform built by the UPMC Health Plan for the behavioral needs of adults will be used as a starting point for this initiative. With the help of this funding from YourMomCares, a digital product will be adapted and implemented for youth in a project involving UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital. The app integrates digital behavioral health therapy with trained mental wellness coaches to provide personalized support for adolescents and young adults with behavioral health needs identified by their pediatrician.
“Anxiety disorders are on the rise in this population and early intervention with digital tools that are easily accessible, and evidence based are critical in helping more children and adolescents,” said Ken Nash, M.D., vice chair for clinical affairs, Department of Psychiatry at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and chief of clinical services, UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital.
The app is structured to be interactive with coaches helping to motivate youth to learn and practice new coping skills that will be available right on their smartphones, and its use will be directly monitored by medical professionals. The app content, gamification and coaching style will be adjusted to match the developmental level across kids through young adults.
“Teens and young adults use their mobile phones every day, so our goal is to capture their behavioral health needs by integrating our research into a technological solution that will appeal to this age group, which can lead to individualized clinical therapies in a timely fashion,” said Eva Szigethy, M.D., Ph.D., child and adolescent psychiatrist, UPMC Children’s Hospital and professor of psychiatry and medicine, Pitt School of Medicine. “We hope that with this app, we can help target problems most affecting the individual’s life and ultimately help children and teens get the support and answers they need.”
“We are proud to support the groundbreaking mental health work done at UPMC Children’s and UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital,” said Sharon Feldstein and Patsy Noah, co-founders, YourMomCares. “We are passionate about ensuring that no child suffers alone, so the development of this new tool will help youth and young adults in this pilot program and ultimately, can soon impact millions of kids nationwide.”
“Our goal at YourMomCares is to expand the field of mental health and change the dialogue from mental illness to mental wellness,” added Feldstein and Noah. “With this app, we will do just that. We are bringing an interactive tool which will offer the support and guidance needed for so many of these kids and teens who are fighting a mental illness.”
The gift will help to pilot this new approach with 500 patients starting at ages 16 to 26 and is projected to be available by the 2019 school year with results made available in 2020.