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Featured Model Teen Programs

The Adolescent Center at Group Health Cooperative
Seattle, Washington

The Adolescent Center, a part of Group Health Cooperative’s integrated consumer-governed delivery system, began operating more than 20 years ago as a place where adolescents in Puget Sound could receive specialized care catering to adolescents with complex physical, psychological, behavioral, or academic issues. It sees adolescents ages 11 to 18 covered by Group Health plans -- a population covered by Group Health’s Medicaid, CHIP, and private plans -- but also treats other adolescents who are not Group Health members. The center, which sees between 3,000 and 4,000 adolescents each year, has been highly successful. Program evaluation results show decreased emergency room use, improved outcomes, and high physician satisfaction.

The center is devoted to providing confidential, holistic care to adolescent patients and has an interdisciplinary staff that includes an adolescent medicine physician, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a child and adolescent psychologist, pediatric and psychiatric nurse practitioners, and master- level therapists. Patients usually come to the center by way of a referral from a primary care provider or parent, but center staff also review utilization data in order to identify high-risk adolescents in the Group Health system. Once there, the Adolescent Consultation Team assesses each patient’s health care needs and makes a determination about which primary and specialty care providers they will need to see. A joint plan of care is developed with the patient’s referring primary care provider, who is kept informed though telephone calls and electronic health records. Most patients see both medical and mental health providers in order to address some combination of co-occurring issues -- such as parent and teen relationships and conflict, school problems, ADHD, chronic illness management skills, at-risk behaviors, stress-associated pain syndromes, eating disorders, and the complete spectrum of mental health diagnoses. The multidisciplinary team meets every week to discuss patients’ diagnosis and treatment requirements.

In recent years the Adolescent Center has expanded to offer a small-scale version of its unique model of care to 3 other Group Health facilities in the state as well as 7 school-based health centers (SBHCs). A physician or nurse practitioner and a mental health provider offer interdisciplinary care but consult with the larger staff at the main Adolescent Center site. Staff at the SBHCs are electronically synched with the Group Health system so that adolescents who need more specialized care can be seen by appropriate providers. These sites are serving more than 2,000 adolescents.

The Adolescent Center has developed outreach activities that include a health education pamphlet called Totally Teen mailed to all adolescents in the Group Health system and a peer health educator program in local schools, focused particularly on reproductive health. Members of the staff often go to community events to promote awareness of adolescent health risks among adolescents and their families. They also educate Group Health’s primary care providers about the special needs of the adolescent population and also consult with them on specific cases.

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