When Behavioral Health Concerns Present in Pediatric Primary Care: Factors Influencing Provider Decision-Making

Elizabeth H. Connors, Prerna Arora, Angela M. Blizzard, Kelly Marie Bower, Kelly Coble, Joyce N Harrison, David Pruitt, Janna Steinberg, Lawrence S Wissow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Primary care providers (PCPs) frequently encounter behavioral health (BH) needs among their pediatric patients. However, PCPs report variable training in and comfort with BH, and questions remain about how and when PCPs address pediatric BH needs. Existing literature on PCP decisions to address pediatric BH in-office versus referring to subspecialty BH is limited and findings are mixed. Accordingly, this study sought to examine parameters and contextual factors influencing PCP decisions and practices related to BH care. Qualitative interview results with 21 PCPs in Maryland indicated that decisions about how and when to address pediatric BH concerns are influenced by the type BH service needed, patient characteristics, the availability of BH services in the community, and possibly PCPs’ perceptions of BH care as a distinct subspecialty. Findings suggest that efforts to support individual PCPs’ capacity to address BH within primary care must be balanced by efforts to expand the subspecialty BH workforce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Behavioral Health Services and Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Dec 5 2017


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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