Money on the Mind

August 2019 View more

Dr. Michelle Pierce: The Naperville-based pediatrician has received special training in pediatric anxiety, depression, and ADHD.

For Michelle Pierce, the difference between the scant pediatric mental health training to which she was exposed during her residency and the growing need for such expertise in the real world was a clear example of what she and her fellow doctors at Children’s Health Partners in Naperville saw as a gaping hole in the pediatric health system.      

“I think this need has been there for quite some time—certainly as long as I’ve been a pediatrician. And it’s only become more critical,” she says. “There simply aren’t enough resources to take care of the mental health care needs of children.”

But thanks to a charitable donation of $15 million from the Pritzker Foundation to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (see below), the tide of pediatric mental health care in northern Illinois may be turning. Among other initiatives such as recruiting faculty, improving training programs for residents and supporting behavioral health research, a large portion of the gift will be used to help expand Lurie’s MAACC (mood, anxiety, and ADHD collaborative care) program, in which Pierce and her colleagues have participated for over a year. The goal of the program is to use online modules to train pediatricians in managing pediatric anxiety, depression, and ADHD, and to allow those doctors to refer patients to Lurie’s Department of Psychiatry for initial evaluation and a recommended course of therapy. For Pierce, the additional funding means that the MAACC program will continue to grow, and that perhaps the gap between what her patients need and what she can provide will get just a little bit smaller.

“The MAACC program is off to a great start, and this gift should allow our patients to continue to benefit from it as a very helpful resource,” she says. “It gives our doctors and patients peace of mind to know that the professionals at Lurie are being consulted and are in agreement when it comes to something as important as a child’s mental health.”

pritzker children’s initiative

A recent multimillion-dollar donation by the Pritzker Foundation funds a major initiative to address the critical shortage of pediatric mental health providers. Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago’s program trains pediatricians—a child’s front-line health care provider—to screen, diagnose, and treat behavioral health as part of each patient’s assessment and care.

As head of the newly named Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Dr. John Walkup is implementing a new model of care across Chicagoland. “In Illinois, almost 20 percent of children have a mental heath problem before graduating from high school,” says Walkup, “and only half have been in treatment. This gift allows us to ‘work smart’ and to reach more kids.”

Photo courtesy Children’s Health Partners