Katie SchmittImproving Mental Health Care Access for Kids
By Rebecca Anderson-Brown, Kate Bast, Lisa Bauer, Shelby Deering, Elle Duncombe-Mills, Jenie Gao, Emily Leas, Marni McEntee, Candice Wagener & Rachel Werner | Photographed by Hillary Schave
Dr. Katie Schmitt admits that she had no plans to work with children when she entered the field of psychiatry, but two years into her residency that all changed. She quickly discovered a passion for helping kids during one of the most intense moments of their lives and hopefully changing their path just slightly.
When she was appointed as the medical director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry for UnityPoint Health–Meriter in 2010, there were limited resources and access for patients of this inpatient psychiatric program dedicated to kids. Often families were sent to Milwaukee or farther for care because of the high demand for services in Dane County.
Through coordination with other departments, support from Meriter for more staff and beds, and an outreach program to schools, pediatricians and community programs regarding available options, Schmitt has increased the number of children and teens served at Meriter from 560 in 2010 to an expected 850 for 2016.
Schmitt was recently appointed as associate medical director of Behavioral Health for Meriter, a role that will allow her to address the entire age spectrum for inpatient psychiatric care, including participation with New Start, Meriter’s addiction service.
Looking ahead, Schmitt knows her work is not done. The Child and Adolescent Psychiatry program still runs a wait list nine months of the year, and the most important thing she can do is get the community to react.
“I’m really passionate about telling our story through the UnityPoint Health–Meriter Foundation because it’s a story people can relate to,” she says. “So many of us are touched by mental illness.”
Schmitt feels that if the public, including other health care providers and administrators, recognizes the need and benefits of patient services, people will donate, speak up—and demand the right care for area children and teens. She’s ready to take on the challenge. –Emily Leas