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Topic: Accessing Mental Health Services for Children and Adolescents

Question: I live in a rural area of North Dakota and have really been struggling to get my preteen access to mental health treatment since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Are there any resources that I can access for help?

Jennifer Faul, LCSW

Program Director - Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program, Head of Special Projects Sanford Health





Expert's Response

The demand for mental health treatment for children and adolescents is higher now than it has ever been for us in the region. During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, kids found themselves worrying about the health of their older loved ones, such as parents and grandparents. However, with the surge in the Delta variant of the virus, many children and adolescents have developed a sense of concern for their own safety given the increasing prevalence of infection among individuals in their age group and lack of an FDA approved vaccination for children under the age of 12. This has led to a rise in mental health concerns, such as anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide, as well as substance use issues.

For many individuals in North Dakota, their primary care provider (“PCP”) is the main source of treatment for all health concerns, physical and mental alike. Families are encouraged to let their child or adolescent’s PCP know about any issues with mental health or substance use. In turn, those PCPs can access treatment resources through the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access (PMHCA) program of North Dakota. The PMHCA program helps PCPs access appropriate mental health consultation and seeks any additional care for the family or youth. The goal is to provide as much care close to home without necessarily setting up a referral for specialty treatment out of town.

One significant resource allowing providers to give care within their home community is tele-behavioral health services. Whether it is through the doctor’s office, or through school, telehealth services allow children and adolescents to connect with specialty mental health providers who they may not otherwise have access to. PCPs may access telehealth consultation and education resources by visiting the PMHCA program website at or calling the consultation line at (888) 522-9654.