New Institute Connects the Dots Between 9 Medical Specialties Under One Roof
Neurology, Neuropsychology, Neurosurgery, Pain Management, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Psychology, Psychiatry, Developmental Pediatrics and Developmental Psychology will work together in one location for comprehensive care for our patients.
By Ashley Antle
We’re born with a mind, body and soul. When something goes wrong with one, it often affects another. That’s especially true for individuals with diseases of the nervous system — or the brain, spinal cord and nerves — and it’s the motivation for the development of the new Jane and John Justin Institute for Mind Health at Cook Children’s Medical Center – Fort Worth.
The Justin Institute will connect nine specialties under one roof, including Neurology, Neuropsychology, Neurosurgery, Pain Management, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Psychology, Psychiatry, Developmental Pediatrics and Developmental Psychology. It is slated to open fall 2023 in Cook Children’s newly expanded Dodson Specialty Clinics building.
"All of the departments and specialties involved in creating the Justin Institute have worked really hard to break out of their silos and build a system that gives our patients a connected and well-coordinated experience," said Teresa Baker, assistant vice president, Primary and Specialty Services, for Cook Children's Physician Network. "I'm really thankful for their teamwork and focus on doing what is best for the child, and our patient families will be, too, as they see it first hand during their visits."
Physicians began building the Justin Institute’s framework several years ago after identifying a missing link within the Neurosciences program. There was little coordination among overlapping specialties that treat the mental, developmental and physical diseases and disorders associated with the nervous system.
“A majority of people with diseases of the nervous system have accompanying mental health or behavioral health disorders,” said M. Scott Perry, M.D., an epileptologist and head of Neurosciences at the Justin Institute. “For example, about 50% of people with epilepsy will also have mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.”
That may be because epilepsy, depression and anxiety share the same abnormal brain connections, or because the stress of living with the unpredictability of the disorder leads to mental health struggles. Either way, it’s important to connect the dots of care for those with overlapping mental, intellectual, neurological and developmental health needs.
“Kids get better when all aspects of their health and wellbeing are addressed, including their medical and mental health needs,” said Kristen Pyrc, M.D., Cook Children’s co-medical director of Psychiatry. “Many of our patients are seen by Neurology and Developmental Pediatrics and Developmental Psychology specialties, so we are hoping that being part of one institute will help increase collaboration amongst the disciplines and get patients to the appropriate resources more quickly.”
Everything for the Child
The Justin Institute is built around a patient-centered experience, where everything for the care of a child’s nervous system is in one place and coordinated through one referral, assessment and intake process. It’s designed to eliminate barriers to care like multiple appointments with multiple providers in multiple locations and to simplify the patient’s access to their medical team. For children and their families, it will make a day of doctor’s appointments much easier. For medical providers, it enhances their ability to coordinate care.
“The Justin Institute will help us more readily identify and align services earlier in the treatment process and steer families in the right direction, or in many directions simultaneously,” said Lena Zettler, MA, LPA, director of the Cook Children’s Department of Psychology. “For our patients who have had traumatic childhood experiences, plus mental health issues and neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, this will provide better collaboration and coordination of care, hopefully in a more timely manner.”
It’s about improving the system, Dr. Perry explained. One that can admittedly be hard for families to navigate at times.
“Dealing with a disorder of the nervous system is stressful enough,” he said. “Getting the appropriate care should not make it worse. You shouldn’t have to pack up your child and go to four different places when you need a neurologist, neurosurgeon, psychologist and autism services when we can bring these services that commonly co-mingle together under one umbrella.”
At the Justin Institute, neurologists, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists and experts in developmental and behavioral health will work together in one location where walking across the hall to consult with one another on a patient’s case will be the norm. For the patient, that translates to better, more comprehensive and connected care.
“The opportunities for collaboration between specialty departments when they are under one roof has the potential to really enhance the care that we all provide our families,” said Matt Robison, director of Cook Children’s Child Study Center, where kids with complex developmental and behavioral health disorders receive diagnosis, treatment and education.
Child Study Center’s Developmental Pediatrics department and Psychology program will physically relocate to the Dodson Specialty Clinics building as part of the Justin Institute, as well as Cook Children’s psychologists who currently function in different departments on the main hospital campus.
The move undoubtedly brings mental health care front and center and illustrates Cook Children’s commitment to connected care, according to Zettler.
“Cook Children’s understands there is no health without mental health,” she said. “Psychologists, in particular, have much to offer in assessment and complex diagnostics, and I am looking forward to future collaboration, projects and research that will be mutually beneficial for all.”
Cook Children’s already has a robust Neurosciences Research Program, but the Justin Institute will open the door for more cross-specialty studies, much like one currently underway examining the impact of epilepsy on the psychological health of children. Chrystal Cooper, Ph.D., a principal investigator with the Justin Institute, is leading that study.
“Dr. Cooper’s work is an example of the type of collaborative research that is possible across the divisions of the Justin Institute,” Dr. Perry said. “Our plan is to take the successful research program we have in neurosciences with a focus on epilepsy, cerebral palsy and movement and grow that team to include teams dedicated to autism, pain, stroke and more.”
To learn more about the specialties represented at the Justin Institute for Mind Health, visit Instituteformindhealth.org.
About Cook Children's
Cook Children’s is more than a health care system: we strive to be an extension of your family, growing with your child from their first steps to adulthood. By collaborating to deliver on our Promise—to improve the well-being of every child in our care and our communities, we connect the dots for our patients. Between primary and specialty. Between home and medical home. Between short-term care and long-term health.
Based in Fort Worth, Texas, we’re 8,000+ dedicated team members strong, passionately caring for over 1.5 million patient encounters each year. Our integrated, not-for-profit organization spans two medical centers (including our new, state-of-the-art location in Prosper), two surgery centers, a physician network, home health services and a health plan. It also includes Child Study Center at Cook Children's, Cook Children's Health Services Inc., and Cook Children's Health Foundation.
And our impact extends beyond the borders of Texas. We proudly treat children from virtually every state in the nation and 32 countries. By seeing the world through the eyes of children and their families from all backgrounds, we’re able to shape health care suited to them: connected by kindness, imagination and respect — with an extra dose of magical wonder.