The University of Texas System

CPAN Celebrates Four Years of Expanding Mental Health Resources in Texas to Benefit Children and Women

May holds special significance for the Child Psychiatry Access Network (CPAN), as it coincides with Mental Health Awareness Month, and May 20th marks the fourth anniversary of CPAN’s mission to revolutionize mental health care delivery for children and adolescents.

As part of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium (TCMHCC), a multi-institution collaborative that was established by the 86th Texas Legislature to address urgent mental health challenges impacting youth across the state, CPAN is successfully countering long-standing workforce shortages of child and adolescent psychiatrists that have historically led to prolonged wait times for appointments. By establishing the most extensive network of mental health and behavioral health professionals ever coordinated in Texas, CPAN offers pediatric health physicians a robust solution.

These experts provide free, peer-to-peer phone consults and continuing medical education, empowering physicians to enhance their ability to provide child and youth mental health care at their practices.

CPAN experts equip physicians with the latest information and knowledge about children’s mental health issues, provide referrals, recommend local treatment resources and offer other services that ultimately increase and expedite access to mental health care for concerned families.

“We are identifying young people much earlier, so we can intervene at a point when they are in elementary school, when they are in intermediary school or when they’re in high school prior to their symptoms becoming so significant that they need more intensive care,” said Luanne Southern [PDF], executive director of the TCMHCC. “This marks a significant difference before and after implementation of the Consortium’s programs, such as CPAN. Now, primary care providers have a lot more information that they need to be able to treat that young person, and that’s very different.”

The need for greater access to child and adolescent mental health care was already acute when the legislature chose to fund the TCMHCC in 2019 and appointed the UT System to administer it. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly increased that need.

Physicians have taken advantage of CPAN’s services in encouraging numbers. In just four years, CPAN has enrolled more than 12,700 providers and nearly 2,500 clinics, completed more than 34,000 clinician-to-clinician consults, served more than 30,000 patients and completed 22,000 vetted patient referrals.

Overwhelmingly, physicians who have enrolled in CPAN said their knowledge in mental health care and their skill and confidence to provide mental health care increased. According to a 2023 survey conducted among physicians who utilized the service, CPAN received a 98% satisfaction rate.

In just four years, CPAN has enrolled more than 12,700 providers and nearly 2,500 clinics, completed more than 34,000 clinician-to-clinician consults, served more than 30,000 patients and completed 22,000 vetted patient referrals.

Another of the Consortium’s initiatives, the Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine, has integrated into Texas public school districts with a school-based telehealth program. The program currently extends its coverage to approximately 3.9 million students and assists both school leaders and parents in helping students who struggle with mental health issues such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, trauma, grief and healing, as well as offering suicide prevention and safety planning.

“Mental illness, it’s real, mental illness is treatable, you can recover from it and you can thrive in your community,” Southern said. “If you feel that you have an issue that needs to be addressed, it’s OK, you’re not alone. And that’s what we’re trying to do with the consortium and our work, is to be a part of a system that is welcoming to children, youth and families, where a mental health need is there. We have people in our academic institutions who are trained and who have expertise and know how to provide them with support and help them get better.”

Recently, CPAN expanded its services to help physicians caring for pregnant and postpartum women. Maternal mental health conditions are the most common complications of pregnancy and childbirth, with 1 in 5 women being affected, are the leading underlying cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States.

The Perinatal Psychiatry Access Network, or PeriPAN, is structured similar to CPAN with physicians able to access a free network of mental health experts, including reproductive psychiatrists, for peer-to-peer consults by phone to provide women treatment that leads to recovery.