William James College Honors The Weil Foundation

College to Train Pediatricians in Child Mental Health through Generous Grant

October 31, 2016

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, although one in five children in the United States suffers from a diagnosable mental health disorder, only 21 percent of affected children actually receive needed treatment. Sadly, Boston’s children’s mental health mirrors national trends, which is that more children suffer with more and more severe mental health issues every year. William James College is dedicated to teaching and training the next generation of child mental health practitioners, as well as to advancing awareness and access to mental health care for all. Toward that end, William James College was recently awarded a grant by the John Leopold Weil and Geraldine Rickard Weil Memorial Charitable Foundation for training pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners through a special certification program developed by Howard King, MD, a Newton pediatrician, to recognize, diagnose and, if appropriate, refer patients and their parents with mental health problems to intervention services. Through this grant, outreach to pediatric offices throughout greater Boston will enable at least 10 pediatric practitioners to be certified by the end of 2016, which has the potential to impact the psychosocial health of at least 15,000 children.

The Weil Foundation was created in 1999 through the bequest and in memory of John and Geraldine Weil, who dedicated their adult lives to helping children heal emotionally. The Weil Foundation is dedicated to carrying on the legacy of the Drs. Weil by working to ameliorate child abuse in all forms. The efforts of the Weil Foundation are focused on children under the age of 10 in the greater Boston area.

John Weil, MD, a psychiatrist, was a pioneer in the study and treatment of the emotional effects of physical and sexual abuse of young children and presented his theories by writing three books. Geraldine Rickard Weil, PhD, a psychologist, was an innovator in the study of child development. Among her many accomplishments in advancing the welfare of children, she created, with retired William James Faculty Member, Haskel Cohen, PhD, the Tasks of Emotional Development (TED) test in 1971, which is still widely used in schools for the assessment of children today.

Though primary care providers (pediatricians and others) are often the gatekeepers for identifying mental health disorders in children, these providers often lack the time and expertise to identify and manage mental health disorders. Studies indicate that primary care providers require additional training to successfully identify mental health concerns in their patients and patients’ parents. Some pediatricians, the research suggests, feel not only incapable of identifying and discussing children’s psychosocial health, but also uncomfortable. King’s approach is designed to facilitate earlier diagnosis and treatment of emotional disorders. He built an innovative approach to physician-patient communication by which physicians, parents and the community collaborate to improve the delivery of compassionate behavioral, emotional and psychosocial care for children and adolescents.

William James College’s Nadja Reilly, PhD an experienced clinical psychologist; Claudia Gold, MD, pediatrician and writer with experience addressing children’s mental health needs, and Jenny Hopf, MEd in Higher Education, currently Director of Education Technology, will work with King to develop the six month course at the College.