Health & Fitness

Child Health Notebook: New mental health services, time for flu vaccines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older gets the flu vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older gets the flu vaccine. AP file

Mental health care for local youth of all ages was a prime topic recently, with new services announced by Valley Children’s Healthcare and Modesto Junior College.

September brings cooler weather, fall harvests and a reminder that influenza season is coming. So, it’s time to talk flu vaccines.

Mental health care at MJC

Modesto Junior College is expanding its student health services, using telehealth.

Earlier this month, MJC announced it was partnering with TimelyMD to increase students’ access to mental health services using telehealth. The new program is called Pirate Care.

“Over the last several years, we have seen an increase in the volume of students requesting mental health support, so it was important to explore innovative ways to help meet this demand,” said Amy Yribarren, director of health services at MJC, in a press release.

TimelyMD is a telehealth company that works with higher education institutions across the country. The organization has a network of health care providers, including licensed physicians, clinical social workers and counselors, with expertise in care of college students.

Anxiety and depression are the most common conditions, affecting more than 35% of students. One in four college students take medication for a mental health disorder, according to the American Psychological Association. Nationwide, 6% of college students have considered suicide.

MJC offers in-person student health services. TimelyMD will increase services by adding 24/7 access to medical or mental health care from anywhere using a web-enabled device, such as a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

MJC students can sign up for Pirate Care by visiting www.timely.md/piratecare.

Valley Children’s new behavioral health hospital

On Wednesday, Valley Children’s Healthcare announced a new partnership with Universal Health Services, UHS, to construct and operate a 128-bed behavioral health hospital. The hospital is slated to open in 2022 in Madera and will provide mental health care services for children and adults, including a 24-bed inpatient unit dedicated to psychiatric care of children ages 5 to 17.

Nearly one in six Californians have mental health problems. Of the people with mental illness, only one-third are able to access services. Nationwide, there is a shortage of mental health providers, and this is magnified in the Central Valley.

“The behavioral health care needs for our children and families are significant, and this new facility will provide our Valley with new resources closer to home,” said Todd Suntrapak, president and CEO of Valley Children’s Healthcare, in a press release.

In addition to the future facility, Valley Children’s and UHS will immediately begin work on a psychiatric residency program, as well as telepsychology services for children served by Valley Children’s. Training future psychiatrists increases access to providers in the short term, as well as long term, as many trainees stay in the areas where they trained.

Valley Children’s Healthcare has a network of providers throughout Central California and provides comprehensive care exclusively for children, from before birth to young adulthood.

UHS is a national hospital management organization and will be the sole owner and operator of the new behavioral health facility.

For additional information about the new services, visit: www.valleychildrens.org/services/uhs

Influenza vaccine time

Seasonal influenza usually invades the Northern Hemisphere in late fall through spring. So at the end of summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, issues its annual recommendation for everyone 6 months and older to get the flu vaccine.

Influenza infection typically starts with abrupt onset of fevers, chills and body aches, with associated congestion, cough or sore throat. The illness can be severe leading to complications, such as ear infections, pneumonia, hospitalization and death.

Last week, a 4-year-old boy from Perris in Riverside County died from influenza, the first reported pediatric death this season. In the United States, 8,000 influenza-related deaths were reported in the 2018-2019 flu season.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, CDC and other national experts work with the World Health Organization to choose the flu strains that manufacturers put into the annual vaccines.

The strains are chosen based upon monitoring flu activity throughout the world, including the winter months of June, July and August in the Southern Hemisphere. This past flu season was severe in Australia, and with flu already in California, we may be in for a bad season.

The influenza viruses mutate frequently — some changes are minor, but others are major shifts in how the virus looks. The viruses can change so much that a person’s immune system has no defense against them. Thus, the need for annual vaccinations.

Injectable vaccines in the United States are prepared using purified proteins from the A and B strains of the influenza viruses predicted to circulate. A person cannot get the flu from the shot. It takes at least two weeks after the vaccine to develop immunity (protection against the viruses).

Also available this year is the nasal spray influenza vaccine, called FluMist, which is licensed for individuals ages 2 through 49 without a contraindication. This vaccine is made with weakened, live flu viruses, and flulike symptoms can occur after vaccination.

The CDC recommends an age-appropriate influenza vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older, unless a person has a contraindication.

Additional information can be found at: www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2019-2020.htm

This story was produced with financial support from The Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Stanislaus Community Foundation, along with the GroundTruth Project’s Report for America initiative. The Modesto Bee maintains full editorial control of this work.

ChrisAnna Mink is pediatrician and health reporter for The Modesto Bee. She covers children’s health in Stanislaus County and the Central Valley. Her position is funded through the financial support from The Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Stanislaus Community Foundation, along with The GroundTruth Project’s Report for America initiative. The Modesto Bee maintains full editorial control of her work.
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