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New Mental Health Resource for Area Families

Education Extra


When a child or teen needs mental health resources, families and caregivers often want assistance determining the appropriate level of care. Children’s of Alabama and the Anne B. LaRussa Foundation of Hope have established the Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) to help patients, families and providers better navigate the mental health care system. Anyone with a mental health question or concern regarding a child or teen is encouraged to contact the PIRC at 205-638-PIRC (7472). The PIRC is open seven days a week, year-round from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. as a confidential phone response center linking adult callers to mental health resources for children and teens. Licensed mental health professionals match patients and their families with mental health services and providers in a five-county area (Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair, Blount and Walker). The PIRC therapists assess risk factors, answer questions about mental health concerns and provide community resource information and safety planning for future crises. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for Children’s of Alabama to offer an innovative and much-needed mental health service to those in the community,” said PIRC Director Cindy Jones, who, with Children’s Behavioral Health Administrative Director Stacy White, spent a year and a half planning the service. “We provide access to a mental health professional that will guide and support them along the way.” The PIRC, located in Children’s Emergency Department, is one of only three such centers in the country. “There is a nationwide trend of increased volume of pediatric psychiatric visits to emergency rooms, explains PIRC medical director, Dr. Tobias Martines. “Our program’s mission is to help guide patients and their families to the most appropriate level of care.”

For high-risk children and teens who may need services in Children’s Emergency Department, the PIRC will provide crisis evaluations on a first-come, first-served basis, considering treatment room availability and urgency. Patients will be assessed by a mental health team of board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrists, fellows, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and PIRC staff to determine the appropriate level of care. The PIRC does not provide over-the-phone diagnoses or psychiatric evaluations, over-the-phone scheduling or rescheduling of outpatient appointments, home visits, transportation, prescriptions or refills. Clinicians emphasize the PIRC is not a suicide or crisis hotline, but instead a valuable resource for anyone who is seeking mental health services on a child’s behalf. Anyone experiencing a crisis should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should call the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). †

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