_A Home Base

A virtual “home” for the behavioral health needs of children and young adults on the autism spectrum aims to provide better outcomes at a lower cost.

_James E. Connell Jr.

Connell is a professor in the School of Education and clinical director of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute.

Treating children with many different health needs can be a tricky and expensive business. If the right specialist isn’t found, a child can be put on an unnecessary drug, which can lead to more wrong drugs, when what the child really needs is a behavioral intervention.

That’s what the Behavioral Home Model, developed by Professor James E. Connell Jr. and set to be implemented in 2016, aims to address. Its purpose is to keep children healthier with fewer pharmaceuticals while also cutting unnecessary costs from their treatment. Right now, Connell says, high-risk, high-need users can cost up to $300,000 a year to treat.

“The Behavioral Home works in conjunction with physicians’ offices to help identify behavioral health needs, then get the right specialists to work on that concern in an integrated, interdisciplinary system.”

—James E. Connell Jr,
School of Education and the
A.J. Drexel Autism Institute

The “home” isn’t a physical building but instead a database and electronic health record system that brings the right players to the table when treating a child. For example, Connell says, some children with autism have food selectivity issues, but a pediatrician may misinterpret these symptoms as gastrointestinal distress and send the child to a GI specialist, who could prescribe a drug treatment, which then requires more drugs to treat the side effects of the original drug — and still not treat the real issue.

A better approach is to screen the child first to determine if their issue is physical or behavioral, followed by a behavioral specialist recommendation for behavioral concerns.

Connell is now working with Jordan Weisman of the Philadelphia Mental Health Center, with whom Connell proposed the behavioral home model to Community Behavioral Health, a division of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual DisAbility Services that handles mental health and substance abuse services for the city’s Medicaid recipients, including autistic children and young adults.