Mental health care for underserved Valley youth gets a boost


As part of its nonprofit mission, Banner Health provides uninsured children free basic health care through two Banner Children’s Community Clinics located in the East and West Valleys and on the Healthmobile, a brightly colored, 38-foot-long mobile clinic that traverses the Valley. The program is supported almost entirely by charitable gifts to the Banner Health Foundation from individual donors, companies, and foundations.

The Healthmobile is a brightly colored, 38-foot-long mobile clinic that traverses the Valley.

Now, thanks to a new four-year charitable commitment from DPR Construction, the Banner Children’s Community Clinics and Healthmobile will begin offering behavioral health referrals to our partners at Southwest Behavioral Health Services. Mental health services were not previously offered through the Community Clinics due to a shortage of resources, leaving many vulnerable children and families in need of support and unsure where to turn for help.

In recent years, Community Clinic providers have seen more and more children who, in addition to the physical illness or injury that brought them to the clinic, are presenting with signs of depression, anxiety, and other behavioral disorders. To assess the scope of the problem, in 2019, Banner implemented a depression screening tool with patients cared for in the Banner Children’s Community Clinics and the Healthmobile. The data collected showed that an alarming 70% of our young patients met the criteria for a referral to a mental health specialist—and this data was collected before the COVID-19 pandemic, when the lives and routines of children and teens were upended in myriad ways. National data show that during the pandemic, children and adolescents experienced more depressive and anxious symptoms than reported pre-pandemic rates, specifically with high levels of fear and concern regarding the impact of COVID-19 on their lives.

“It is urgent that we address the mental health of the vulnerable population of children served through the Banner Children’s Community Clinics, who face significant barriers to accessing care, including an inability to pay for services, language barriers, transportation difficulties, and low levels of knowledge about available community services and resources,” says Laura Snow, who oversees all pediatric care for Banner Health. “This funding from DPR will go a long way in helping these kids get the support and resources they need to be healthy both physically and mentally.”

DPR’s investment will support the integration of virtual and in-person mental health services/counseling into the Banner Children’s Community Clinics—improving access to quality mental health services, helping to prevent suicide and self-harm, and increasing emotional resiliency in children. Families will be able to access the care their child needs, free of charge, in both English and Spanish. 

“We are grateful to help start this program through the Banner Children’s Community Clinics that will align two interests of DPR: caring for Arizona’s youth and providing mental health resources,” says Gretchen Kinsella, Arizona Business Unit Leader for DPR Construction, who also serves on the Banner Health Foundation board of directors. “These new services will provide children with the comprehensive support they need so that they can lead happy and healthy lives.”

Click here to support the Banner Children’s Community Clinics and Healthmobile.