LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — More than two years into the pandemic, mental health aid in Arkansas is still not easy to find.
"There's a real disparity throughout the state in rural areas," Dr. Chris Smith of the Arkansas Children's Hospital said. "As well as more the urban areas."
It's an issue that impacts more than just adults.
Dr. Smith said that children, who might be visiting the doctor for something as simple as a sore throat, may have deeper issues.
"When you start asking questions, it's like, they're really dealing with underlying depression," Dr. Smith said.
He added that during the pandemic, emergency room visits from children seeking mental health assistance doubled.
Now, there is a big push among leaders from both hospitals to improve the availability of mental health services.
UAMS and Arkansas Children's Hospital were awarded more than $2 million that will go to create more resources inside clinics across the state.
It's all a part of the Children's of Arkansas Mental Health in Primary Care, or CHAMP, program the hospitals are establishing.
"[This] will allow us to provide education for primary care physicians," Dr. Smith said.
The program will focus on the aid primary care doctors can give patients.
"25% of the kids that come in might need to address mental health care," Dr. Smith said.
The team of doctors will see and treat mental and behavioral patients.
Dr. Smith explained that the project will begin in Central Arkansas and will expand to other parts of the state over the course of four years.
It's something he hopes will have a lasting impact on the state.
"It is just a way for us to reach out across the state [and] to be able to ultimately touch the lives of every child in every community, or small town," Dr. Smith said.
You can learn more about the collaboration here.