Over 120,000 U.S. children are hospitalized for traumatic injury annually, a major risk factor for behavioral health problems such as acute/posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Pediatric trauma centers (PTCs) are well positioned to address the recent mandate by the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma to screen and refer for behavioral health symptoms. However, most PTCs do not provide screening or intervention, or use varying approaches. The objective of this mixed-methods study was to assess PTCs’ availability of behavioral health resources and identify barriers and facilitators to service implementation following pediatric traumatic injury (PTI).
Survey data were collected from 83 Level I (75%) and Level II (25%) PTC program managers and coordinators across 36 states. Semistructured, qualitative interviews with participants (N = 24) assessed the feasibility of implementing behavioral health education, screening, and treatment for PTI patients and caregivers.
Roughly half of centers provide behavioral health screening, predominantly administered by nurses for acute stress/PTSD. Themes from qualitative interviews suggest that (1) service provision varies by behavioral health condition, resource, delivery method, and provider; (2) centers are enthusiastic about service implementation including screening, inpatient brief interventions, and follow-up assessment; but (3) require training and lack staff, time, and funding to implement services.
Sustainable, scalable, evidence-based service models are needed to assess behavioral health symptoms after PTI. Leadership investment is needed for successful implementation. Technology-enhanced, stepped-care approaches seem feasible and acceptable to PTCs to ensure the availability of personalized care while addressing barriers to sustainability.