Child & Youth Care Forum

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 135–150 | Cite as

Pediatric Primary Care Providers’ Relationships with Mental Health Care Providers: Survey Results

  • Anne E. Pidano
  • Lisa Honigfeld
  • Miri Bar-Halpern
  • James E. Vivian
Original Paper



As many as 20 % of children have diagnosable mental health conditions and nearly all of them receive pediatric primary health care. However, most children with serious mental health concerns do not receive mental health services. This study tested hypotheses that pediatric primary care providers (PPCPs) in relationships with mental health providers would differ in their care of patients with mental health concerns when compared to PPCPs not in such relationships.


To explore differences between PPCPs who have relationships with mental health care providers and those who do not with regard to their care of children with mental health concerns.


Seventy-two PPCPs completed a mailed survey addressing topics such as comfort levels diagnosing and managing patients with behavioral health disorders, perceived barriers to care, activity related to prescribing psychotropic medications, and availability of consultation with mental health specialists. More than one-third (19 providers) of providers reported no specialized training in behavioral pediatrics and nearly 45 % (32 providers) indicated having a relationship or partnership with a mental health specialist.


Those providers who reported relationships indicated greater availability of consultation and communication with psychiatric providers as well as telephone consultation with non-psychiatric mental health providers. All providers were more comfortable assessing as opposed to treating children with disorders, with the exception of attention disorders, which providers were comfortable with both treating and assessing. For all conditions, there was no main effect for partnership.


While partnerships may be associated with greater availability of consultation and communication, for this sample of PPCPs there was no evidence of advantage with respect to diagnosis and management. The paper concludes with a discussion of study limitations, the need for further research, and suggestions for practice.


Pediatric primary care Behavioral health Collaboration Partnership 



We would like to thank the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut/The Children’s Fund of Connecticut for their generous funding of this project. We would also like to acknowledge Katherine A. Black, Ph.D. for her thoughtful reading and helpful comments with regard to the manuscript, and John Mehm, Ph.D for his willingness to discuss the survey and quantitative analyses. Finally, we would like to express our appreciation to all of the providers who contributed to this project by taking the time to complete the survey.

Conflict of interest

None of the authors has any conflict of interest to declare with respect to publication of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne E. Pidano
    • 1
  • Lisa Honigfeld
    • 2
  • Miri Bar-Halpern
    • 1
  • James E. Vivian
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, East HallUniversity of HartfordWest HartfordUSA
  2. 2.Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut, Inc.FarmingtonUSA

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