VMAP poised for expansion after helping to mitigate shortage in pediatric mental health workforce

Published On: May 10th, 2023

Two years after its official unveiling, the Virginia Mental Health Access Program (VMAP) has helped mitigate the shortage of Virginia’s pediatric mental health workforce and is poised for expansion.

VMAP helps healthcare providers across Virginia better care for children and adolescents with mental health conditions through provider education and increased access to child psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and care navigators. VMAP is administered by the Medical Society of Virginia Foundation in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, the Virginia Department of Health, and the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with numerous other partners.

VMAP has just released its third annual Impact Report, sharing successes and growth since 2019. Launched statewide in May of 2021 (the program was under development in various pilot programs since 2018), VMAP’s impact has been wide-ranging:

  • 1,053 primary care providers (PCP) have registered for VMAP
  • 225% increase in registered providers from 2020-22
  • Served 3,360 Virginia pediatric patients through its VMAP Line (a help line that employs more than 35 staff members) alone with a reach of hundreds of thousands of Virginia children through their PCPs

“VMAP was established to expand access to care for the ever-growing number of Virginia children who need mental health care,” said Melina Davis, CEO and Executive VP of The Medical Society of Virginia. “While we have more work to do, we are very proud of the impact VMAP has had on connecting countless Virginia families to the medical professionals and care their children need.”

In addition to its growth over the past two years, VMAP is expanding its focus to include early childhood services to children ages 0 to 5.

Last summer, VMAP launched an early childhood expansion initiative to understand and address the current state of pediatric behavioral and mental health in Virginia. Among the focal points of the new initiative are:

  • The extensive shortage of developmental-behavioral pediatricians
  • 15% of children are impacted by developmental/behavioral concerns
  • PCPs see children at least 12 times for well-child visits before age 5
  • PCPs seek support for recognizing and responding to infant and early childhood mental health conditions
  • In Virginia, the wait for autism screening and diagnosis can be 12-18 months, causing families to lose critical intervention time
  • PCPs reported needing training and resources to support this population’s needs

“Since we launched our help line in 2019, 7% of the calls we’ve received were for patients ages 0-5, and that number has continued to increase each year,” said Ally Singer Wright, Program Director of VMAP.

Over the last several months, VMAP has added multiple early childhood specialists, including developmental/behavioral pediatricians, to its call line. These specialists consult with PCPs on patients ages 0-5 and are available during most business hours.

In addition, in 2022, VMAP launched a provider education program using a tailored curriculum focused on early childhood topics, and followed up with two additional early childhood cohorts that launched earlier this year. This is just a small part of the overall VMAP curriculum. In all, more than 831 providers have completed one of VMAP’s many extensive trainings in pediatric mental health.

Since its inception VMAP has made real changes in the pediatric and adolescent mental health landscape. The latest VMAP Impact Report shows relevant data and growth, and is available to view and download on the VMAP website at www.vmap.org.

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About the Virginia Mental Health Access Program (VMAP)
The Virginia Mental Health Access Program (VMAP) is a statewide initiative that helps health care providers take better care of children and adolescents with mental health conditions through provider education and increasing access to child psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and care navigators. For more information, visit www.vmap.org.

About the Medical Society of Virginia Foundation

The MSV Foundation (MSVF) advances opportunities for physicians to participate in health improvement efforts in Virginia by supporting programs and initiatives that equip physicians to best serve themselves, their patients and their communities. For more information, visit www.msv.org/foundation.