UAMS Targets Teen Mental Illness, Substance Abuse

By todd

The twin problems trouble many Arkansas teenagers: Almost a third of Arkansas teenagers indicate they drink heavily on occasion, and 23 percent report using marijuana in the previous month. National studies indicate that from half to 85 percent of teenagers with substance abuse problems also have mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or psychotic disorders.

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded $750,000 to UAMS for a three-year pilot program in central Arkansas to improve services to youth ages 12-18. UAMS competed with about 100 other institutions for one of 20 such grants.

Last month, SAMSHA awarded to $3.5 million to the state for a project involving UAMS and the Arkansas Department of Human Services. UAMS also received $665,000 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse in October for a study of best practices for treating depression in substance abusers.

The new grant will allow UAMS to close the gaps in treatment for teenagers suffering from mental health problems as well as alcohol or drug abuse. The Department of Psychiatry in the UAMS College of Medicine will expand its services through three programs in central Arkansas: its own 50-year-old clinic for children and adolescents, a clinic operated by the state juvenile justice system, and a school-based clinic in the North Little Rock School District.

The project will emphasize cognitive behavioral therapy for adolescents, involving families, and follow-up care to help teenagers long-term. Psychiatrist Lynn Taylor will direct the project.

The Child and Adolescent Division of the UAMS psychiatry department treats about 6,740 children and youth annually. About a fourth of the children have a substance use disorder. However, no outpatient programs in central Arkansas currently specialize in treating adolescent substance abuse.