Doctors’ Notes


Adolescent Behavioral Screenings

At Kids Plus, we provide complete and exceptional health care for all of our patients. We understand that health — for everyone, but especially for adolescents — is influenced not just by diet and activity and sleep habits (to name a few), but also by emotions. We know that physical health is influenced by emotional health, so we always want to gain a good understanding of our adolescent patients’ social behaviors and emotional well-being. The better we understand those things, the better the care we provide.

Studies published in the past year revealed that 16% of their adolescent subjects were depressed, that 5% were at risk for suicide, and that 20-25% of adolescents who’d attempted to take their own lives had contacted their primary care provider within the prior 12 months. We don’t want to alarm parents with these numbers; we know they represent nowhere near the majority of adolescents. But there’s a way for us to help adolescents who fall into these categories, and also to help teens with less extreme but still serious emotional concerns, so that’s what we’re doing. And all the more so because, in our own experience at Kids Plus, we’ve found that our adolescent patients are often willing to talk honestly with their primary care providers about their emotional health and wellness.

As a way to meet all the needs of all our adolescents, Kids Plus is thrilled to be piloting a study, in conjunction with the Allegheny County Department of Health and Human Services, at our Squirrel Hill location. All our adolescents, starting at age 14, will complete a Behavioral Health Screening Tool, developed at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, at each yearly Well Child Visit.

This computer-based screening will ask your child a series of questions about his/her feelings, behaviors, relationships, school experience, and personal safety. The screening takes approximately 10-15 minutes. Your medical provider will review the answers with your child. We may also review them with you, if we feel any concerns or additional behavioral services need to be addressed. Most importantly, this screening will be one part of our efforts to encourage open communication with both our adolescent patients and their caregivers, and to help caregivers get the services their adolescents need. Our extensive list of health professionals will help to guide your child toward safe, healthy choices.

This Adolescent Behavioral Health Screening is just one more way we at Kids Plus do our best to help all our patients and families get the care they needs and deserve. After this pilot study, we hope to be able to offer the same screening to patients at all of our office locations.

Dr. Alicia Hartung, a Kids Plus Doc since 2001, is a shareholder in the practice.