More than 20,000 children in Idaho suffer from serious emotional disturbance, or SED, according to Optum Idaho.
Optum Idaho and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare created a grant to help improve the state's behavioral health system.
That grant has been awarded to St. Luke's Health System and The REACH Institute to fund a program to help kids with SED. A statewide training program will be created with the $420,000 grant.
The program will educate and train therapists, school counselors and psychologists. They'll learn more ways to better help children and families affected by SED.
"When I moved out here to Idaho I was struck by the incredible need for children's mental health services and the lack of resources that we had," Dr. Sam Pullen from St. Luke's Health System said. "Because of the shortage of child psychiatrists, we really needed a way to start to teach and empower these providers to better work with children and families of mental illness."
Pullen has been working on these types of programs over the past two years all over the state. He's trained more than 70 primary care providers. Now with this grant, more of these programs will be available.
"It changes the conversation," he said. "From 'Boy, what do I do with this kid?' to 'Now... I've been helping this kid. I've been using a lot of tools that I learned. I maybe need a little bit more advice here, but I'm all in... I don't have that same fear or discomfort of taking care of these kids like I used to.'"
"Sometimes just awareness and education is the biggest gap," Georganne Benjamin, executive director of Optum Idaho, said. "People just don't know what's available to them. And then through this grant, being able to train providers just gives them new tools, new information to serve this population differently."