California Pediatricians to Begin Screening Children for Traumatic Experiences in 2020
Has your child ever lived with a parent or caregiver who had mental health issues, such as depression? Witnessed a parent or caregiver being screamed at, insulted or humiliated by another adult? Been separated from their parent or caregiver due to foster care or immigration?
Those are some of the questions on a survey that California pediatricians will use to screen millions of children for traumatic experiences beginning Jan. 1, 2020. Many more of these screenings are expected, after the 2019-20 budget just approved by the state Legislature allocated $45 million to reimburse doctors for screening MediCal patients for trauma, and $50 million to train doctors on how to conduct trauma screenings. The funding is in addition to funding for screenings for developmental and other disabilities.
The new screenings are part of a push by Gov. Gavin Newsom to focus on adverse childhood experiences, underscored by his appointment of Dr. Nadine Burke Harris as California’s first surgeon general earlier this year. Burke Harris is recognized as a pioneer in the study of how these experiences can affect children’s developing brains and cause a number of lifelong health and mental health problems.
The nonprofit organization Burke Harris founded in San Francisco, Center for Youth Wellness, has screened children for traumatic experiences for years and helped develop the survey for children, known as the PEdiatric ACEs and Related Life-events Screener (PEARLS). The survey was chosen by a statewide task force to be used for the new screenings. The results help doctors determine whether children or adults need mental health counseling or other preventative treatments to help them avoid some of the long-term effects caused by the trauma they have experienced.
The screening will not be required, but having the list of questions to ask and reimbursements available is expected to encourage more doctors to screen their patients for trauma. The goal is to get more doctors to screen children for traumatic experiences so they will be able to treat them earlier.
Doctors routinely conduct screenings for developmental challenges. Some doctors also currently screen children and adults for trauma, but they have to bill MediCal and other insurance companies for it as a standard preventive screening.
With the new funding, the California Department of Health Care Services will pay MediCal providers $29 extra for each trauma screening. There are about 5.5 million children enrolled in MediCal. Under the new reimbursement program, MediCal would cover screening of children every 1 to 3 years for children. Adults can be screened once about the events they experienced as children.
Excerpted from “California wants to find out if you — or your kids — have experienced trauma” in EdSource. Read the full article.