The following article and podcast were originally published on the U-M Public Engagement & Impact website.


Mental health care isn’t only provided in psychiatrists offices. It often occurs in family doctors’ or primary care providers’ offices, especially when the care is for children and young adults. Those providers, however, aren’t always equipped with the resources needed to address mental health concerns of their patients. That’s where the Michigan Child Collaborative Care Program, or MC3, comes in. 

MC3 is a statewide program connecting primary care providers with psychiatrists and behavioral specialists for consultations and training to support their ability to provide mental health care in their clinics. Sheila Marcus, MD, heads the pediatric component of MC3 and is a professor of psychiatry at Michigan Medicine. Marcus joined Michigan Minds to talk about the importance of providing pediatric and perinatal mental health support across the state of Michigan and explain how MC3 is working to do just that. 

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MC3 provides same-day phone consultations to offer telepsychiatry sessions with patients and to bring education and resources to providers who are trying to find psychotherapeutic resources for children and mothers. 

“The program is currently available in every county in the state of Michigan and has grown from a very small program in a few counties to covering all of the lower and then all of the upper peninsula. The program is designed really to leverage what has become an extremely, extremely scarce resource: both the child and adolescent and perinatal psychiatrists. And to try to get our expertise into the communities in Michigan that need them.”

Marcus addresses why this support for providers is so necessary, saying that is a “tsunami of need out there, particularly in children’s and in perinatal mental health.” The program began in 2012, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought the problem to the forefront. 

“During the pandemic, what we’ve discovered is that rates of depression and anxiety in all of these populations has skyrocketed, suicide is increasingly problematic for both kids and for women. Our emergency rooms are bursting at the seams. There are not enough beds for the population of people that need them. The lines in the mental health service programs are longer than have ever been in my 40 years in this field,” she says. 

“Deaths due to guns are now the leading cause of death in children and adolescents which is absolutely shocking. And there’s an absolute acute, really catastrophic shortage in almost every county in the state of Michigan. So, PCPs are increasingly finding that they’re spending more and more of their time doing this and they simply can’t keep up. They absolutely need additional support.”

Any prescribing clinician in Michigan is eligible to enroll or MC3. Once they are enrolled, they are immediately eligible to call. Since many individuals are comfortable with their known clinician, this service provides a unique opportunity for the physician to call for support rather than send them elsewhere, Marcus explains. 

She emphasizes that this is an important time to talk about mental health overall as well. Not just during Mental Health Awareness Month, but every day. Increased public awareness will help reduce stigma around mental health conditions, and Marcus says it is promising that it is being talked about more often. 

“Mental health conditions are extraordinarily common, and right now, there is a critical shortage of individuals to support people who are caring for individuals with mental health conditions. I think the state of Michigan is trying very hard to get expertise into the hands of people who need it to try to meet some of this demand,” Marcus says. 

“But I think the other important thing is for people to know that mental health conditions are treatable and it is important to seek treatment for these conditions, and to try to think very creatively as a state, as academic clinicians, as to how do we best match treatment resources to individuals who need them and try to get resources in a more equal way into the hands of people who need them.”

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