LAY ABSTRACT: Although many autistic individuals have additional mental health conditions, most have a hard time getting services from mental health providers. One reason why these services can be hard to access is that many mental health providers do not feel confident in their ability to provide services to autistic individuals. To share autism expertise with local community providers and boost their confidence in working with autistic individuals, we created a mental health version of the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (Project ECHO) Autism virtual teleconsultation program. In this pilot study, we recruited 51 community mental health providers to participate in Project ECHO Autism. During each biweekly session, providers received information from autism experts about how to tailor mental health interventions (e.g. attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or anxiety interventions) for use with autistic individuals. They also had the opportunity to ask questions and get advice on their current cases. At the end of the 6-month study, mental health providers showed improvements in their confidence, in their knowledge of autism, and in their problem-solving skills. Nearly half (45%) of these providers participated from rural counties, suggesting that the Project ECHO Autism teleconsultation model was able to reach mental health providers who might not have been able to get training otherwise. This study supports the feasibility of using Project ECHO Autism to share autism knowledge with mental health providers, consequently expanding mental health service options for autistic individuals with co-occurring mental health conditions.
Dreiling NG, Cook ML, Lamarche E, Klinger LG. Mental health Project ECHO Autism: Increasing access to community mental health services for autistic individuals. Autism. 2022 Feb;26(2):434-445. doi: 10.1177/13623613211028000. Epub 2021 Jul 3. PMID: 34218685; PMCID: PMC8814946.