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Kids and Anxiety: Clinical research clinics offer option for families


There is a no-cost option for cutting-edge treatment for childhood anxiety disorders if a family is willing to go to a clinical research facility. Using state funds and research grants, these typically university-affiliated clinics around the country offer comprehensive care.

One such facility is the Columbia University Pediatric Anxiety and Mood Research Clinic in Manhattan.

"Our mission really is to come up with alternative or second-line treatment, as well as improve existing treatments for kids who are suffering from anxiety and mood problems," said Prerna Martin, project manager for the clinic, which can treat patients from anywhere in the country.

The clinic offers therapy and medication with a staff that includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, teachers, nurses and physicians. Its programs, for ages 6 to 20, can be divided into three services: evaluation, outpatient treatment and day program. Anyone is eligible, whether they have seen a mental health professional in the past or not.

The three- to five-hour comprehensive evaluation ends with a diagnosis and a recommendation — either for a research program that fits the child's situation or for another course of treatment — and the clinic staff will work with the family to find an appropriate and qualified place for them to go.

The outpatient program places children in various research trials. Timing can be the clinic's biggest limitation; if a patient is in need of something that doesn't fit a trial at that time, the clinic cannot help them appropriately and will make a referral.

Any child who does participate, however, is also given three months of follow-up treatment at no cost.

"That is built in because ultimately we want the child to leave feeling better, and we don't always know if a new treatment is going to help," Martin said. "That's why we're studying it."

The day program involves a New York City public school, PS 186X, on-site that provides classes for the children as they also undergo more intensive treatment. Patients do not have to be New York City residents to go to the school. They would, however, have to provide their own transportation.

"It's on an outpatient basis, but five days a week and is an option for kids who may need a slightly higher level of care," Martin said. "Again, that's also funded by the state, so there is no insurance claim here." The family's financial status doesn't matter, she said: "If they are eligible for any of the treatment here they could join and make use of the day treatment program here as well."

Unlike many private therapists, the clinic does not have months-long waiting lists.

Despite the too-good-to-be-true sound of it all, Martin said research clinics often struggle to get participants.

"Sometimes people have this feel of 'Will my child be a lab rat? Will my child be another subject? What does that mean?' " Martin said. "I think that comes from a lack of people in the community and providers in the community understanding what clinical research is really like. In clinical research, when you're working with humans, the quality of clinical care you have to provide is much higher than what's happening in the community."


WHAT: Columbia University Pediatric Anxiety and Mood Research Clinic

WHERE: 1051 Riverside Drive, Manhattan


Other clinics

There are other facilities that offer similar clinical research programs that can come at little to no cost or on a sliding scale thanks to funding and grants, according to Prerna Martin, project manager for the Columbia University Pediatric Anxiety and Mood Research Clinic. Here are her recommendations of others (in order of geographic proximity):

  • Youth Anxiety and Depression Clinic (YAD-C), Rutgers:
  • Child & Adolescent OCD, Tic, Trich & Anxiety Group, University of Pennsylvania (COTTAGe):
  • Child & Adolescent Anxiety Disorders Clinic (CAADC) at Temple University:
  • Child Study Center, Yale University:
  • Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University:
  • Duke Child and Family Study Center:
  • Child and Adolescent Mood and Anxiety Treatment, University of Miami:
  • Child Anxiety and Phobia Program, Florida International University:
  • UCLA Childhood OCD, Anxiety and Tic Disorders Program: