Ginhee Ungár and son Matteus experience the “whole child” effect at Yogman Pediatrics.

Behavioral health in pediatrics: A new model of care

It was a routine office visit with Dr. Michael Yogman that set things into motion, says Ginhee Ungár, a Somerville, Mass., mom of three. Her pediatrician’s thoughtful questions prompted her to mention her concerns about helping her eight-year-old better control his emotions. That’s when Yogman suggested they invite his colleague, Susan Betjemann, LICSW, into the conversation.

As a social worker “embedded” with Dr. Yogman’s practice (she’s just down the hall), Betjemann is there to help families with timely support for behavioral health concerns and connect them to the right resources. 

Breaking down barriers
Funded by Harvard Pilgrim’s Quality Grants program, this novel approach by Yogman Pediatrics seeks to make behavioral health an integral part of family medicine. The Quality Grants program supports innovative strategies such as this that help break down existing barriers to health services.

“Whatever it’s called,” says Ungár, “it’s been an unexpected gift.”

Behavioral health concerns—things like anxiety, ADHD and depression—overtook medical issues as the top reasons for child health-related appointments many years ago. The traditional model of behavioral health care—dependent on outside referrals and laden with administrative complexities—will no longer do. 

“The system offers little guidance or support to help families get the right services. It’s a daunting process,” says Betjemann.  

Smarter care: a natural extension
“Who wants their child to have ‘issues’?” says Ungár. “Here there is no stigma. We can get right down to solutions and making things better. The parenting advice and sibling support is a huge part of it too.”

Notes Betjemann, “This program builds upon the existing trust patients have with our pediatricians – it’s a natural extension of that care.”

Says Dr. Yogman, “This really is ‘caring for the whole child.’ It’s a worthwhile investment that more than pays for itself.”