New Center Helps Alleviate Critical Shortage of Children's Mental Health Services

The University of Texas at Austin's Department of Educational Psychology is partnering with Dell Children's Medical Center to create the Texas Child Study Center. The center will consist of an outpatient clinic that offers children's mental health services, training for mental health professionals and graduate students, intervention services for families and research opportunities for faculty and students.

The Texas Child Study Center was conceived by Dr. Kevin Stark, a professor in the College of Education's Department of Educational Psychology, and Dr. William Streusand, Chief of Psychiatry at Dell Children's Medical Center. Dell Children's is a member of the Seton family of hospitals.

Highly trained psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers will staff the new clinic, which will be permanently located adjacent to Dell Children's but is tentatively scheduled to open this September in a temporary location.

"Central Texas suffers from a critical shortage of mental health services for children and adolescents," says Stark, who recently completed the largest ever study on depression in young girls. "The medical center's goal is to offer comprehensive medical services to all children in our geographic region, and that must include comprehensive mental health care as well.

"The most exciting thing about this new child study center is that, in addition to providing prevention and intervention services to the community, it's going to deliver numerous other important benefits. For example, once the clinic is open, University of Texas at Austin faculty and graduate students will be able to take advantage of many more research funding opportunities. Austin area psychiatric and pediatric residents can get training at the clinic, and mental health practitioners will be able to go there and learn about cutting-edge mental health research and practices."

In addition to the clinic at Dell Children's Medical Center, there also will be a satellite clinic at the University of Texas Elementary School in East Austin. With support from Dr. Ramona Trevino, principal of the school, the satellite clinic will implement a prevention program that promotes healthy social and emotional development.

The Texas Child Study Center will provide a full range of mental health services to the community, including psychiatric evaluations, medication management, individual and family psychotherapy, and psychological testing.

Funding for the Texas Child Study Center is comprised of community gifts and fund raising is ongoing.

"The prevalence of mental health disorders in children and adolescents represents a public health crisis," says Streusand, a board certified child and adolescent psychiatrist with 22 years of experience in practice and teaching. "Individuals, families, schools and entire communities suffer from the effects of mental and emotional health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, addictions, eating disorders and schizophrenia, to name only a few.

"About 10 to 20 percent of U.S. children and adolescents have a diagnosable mental health disorder--in 2006 in Travis County alone, there were around 44,000 children living with the pain of mental illness. Mental illness is treatable, recovery is possible and we anticipate that the new Texas Child Study Center is going to improve the quality of life for hundreds of Central Texas families for many decades to come."

Read more about Dr. Kevin Stark's research: