NEWS May 8, 2019

PHN Medical Director Leads Virginia Pediatricians in Effort to Improve Access to Mental Health Care for Kids


Dr. Sandy Chung, PHN Medical Director for Informatics, also serves as the medical director for the Virginia Mental Health Access Program (VMAP).

Mental health care is an essential component of childhood wellbeing – and often an under-resourced component of pediatric care. Pediatricians in Virginia know this challenge first-hand. The 2018 State of Mental Health in America report ranked Virginia 42nd out of all 50 states for the number of providers specializing in children’s mental health. It also put Virginia at 47th lowest for mental health care for children under 18 years old.

Dr. Sandy Chung, PHN’s Medical Director for Informatics, is working with colleagues in her state to address the mental healthcare gap for pediatrics. Together, they have launched the Virginia Mental Health Access Program (VMAP), a program trains pediatricians to treat some forms of mental health problems. When it gets to be too much for their expertise, VMAP has a call center doctors can reach out to that can provide a mental health professional that they can talk to in order to get insight and care for their patient.

VMAP also helps families navigate the healthcare system to find a mental health professional who takes their insurance. Dr. Chung says right now providers will give people referrals but it is often times difficult to find the right resources without immediate support.

The program received an initial $1.23 million from the commonwealth of Virginia to undertake this initiative. The program also received nearly $500,000 for this year from a grant, but Chung said the goal is to get closer to $4 million, or beyond, to continue to expand the program and provide care to more children in Virginia.

VMAP has received local and regional news coverage, including WRIC ABC 8 News Richmond and WSLS ABC 10 News Virginia.

Dr. Sandy Chung, PHN Medical Director for Informatics

Dr. Sandy Chung, PHN Medical Director for Informatics