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Dr Marie Sartain
/ Categories: APhA News

Pharmacists on mental health teams benefit youth

COVID-19 has intensified the mental health pandemic, said Julie A. Dopheide, PharmD, BCPP, FASHP. What’s worse is that access to mental health care continues to be a challenge for individuals.

Dopheide and coauthors of a new paper published in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America believe that clinical pharmacy is underutilized within the mental health space.

In the paper, the authors share how clinical pharmacists and psychiatric pharmacists can improve care for children and adolescents with mental health diagnoses.

“Youth are increasingly prescribed psychiatric medications, and they are vulnerable to drug interactions and adverse effects and need special monitoring and education on the benefits and potential risks of psychiatric medication,” said Dopheide, who is a professor of clinical pharmacy, psychiatry, and the behavioral sciences at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy and Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles.

Dopheide said job opportunities for mental health pharmacists, particularly board-certified psychiatric pharmacists, are increasing nationwide. Board-certified pharmacotherapy specialists and board-certified ambulatory care pharmacists also have a role in mental health, she noted.

“Mental health settings are inherently multidisciplinary and psychiatric treatment teams are very open to clinical pharmacy,” said Dopheide.

While some psychotropic medications are prescribed off-label to youth, many commonly prescribed medications have been studied in this age group with clear labeling on dosing and monitoring to ensure they can be given safely.

“Pharmacists need to actively stay abreast of which psychiatric medications are the most well-studied in youth so these can be recommended over off-label, less well-studied mental health medications,” said Dopheide.

Clinical pharmacists are not regularly involved in mental health treatment teams even though they’ve been able to improve the quality of care for patients.

“While medication management is an important component of the care plan, unfortunately, due to limited resources for mental health, the pharmacist is often not included in the mental health care team,” said Debbie H. Lu, PharmD, MPH, lead author of the paper and assistant professor at Touro University California College of Pharmacy.

Psychiatry teams are more likely to hire therapists or case workers as their allied health staff. However, there are health systems, such as Kaiser Permanente, that have benefited from having dedicated mental health pharmacists on the team.

The paper presents case studies in different settings to show how a collaboration with a psychiatrist and pharmacist can work in real life.

For the full article, please visit for the April 2022 issue of Pharmacy Today.

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