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Right Track Medical Group expands services to treat children and adolescents

Sondra Bennett, PMHNP-BC

Sondra Bennett, PMHNP-BC

New nurse practitioner joins medical staff

An experienced provider in child and adolescent mental health has joined Right Track Medical Group.

Sondra Bennett, PMHNP-BC, joined the staff as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner in September.

Bennett is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. She holds a master’s degree in nursing. Bennett has worked in the mental health field for more than 10 years in a variety of settings, including inpatient and outpatient mental health clinics.

Bennett works closely with psychiatrist Dr. Katherine Pannel, who supervises medical staff as Right Track Medical Group’s medical director. While Bennett is also seeing adult patients, her arrival marks Right Track Medical Group’s expansion into providing services for child and adolescent mental-health disorders.

“Mental health in children and adolescents can be so complex compared to those in adults,” Bennett said. “They not only have to live with a mental-health disorder, but they may also be unable to communicate their feelings in the same way that adults can.”

It’s about meeting children where they are — letting them know can talk and be comfortable.
— Sondra Bennett, PMHNP-BC

Common mental-health disorders in children and adolescents include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, separation anxiety disorder and specific learning disorders.

“Without proper treatment, living with a mental health disorder can have real effects on children. It can lead to decreased interest in activities and lower academic performance,” Bennett said.

Bennett said the most common effect of untreated mental health disorders in children and adolescents is that they are further marginalized due to a misunderstanding of their behavior.

“Quite often children struggling with a mental health disorder are mislabeled as bad kids,” she said. “Someone will say that a child is high-energy or defiant, when really they are battling ADHD.”

Bennett said a child’s unusual or poor behavior can sometimes be linked to a more serious mental-health problem.

“When I see children, I understand there a lot of factors affecting their current behavior,” Bennett said. “They are confused, angry or sad about how they feel and why they are in therapy.”

“I understand they may communicate these feelings differently then an adult would. It’s about meeting children where they are — letting them know they can talk and be comfortable.”

Mental-health treatment for children and adolescents involves examining biological, psychological and environmental factors. An initial examination evaluates the present mental-health disorder while also considering the influence of physical, educational, peer and family elements. After a diagnosis is made, a therapist can work with a patient and their family to develop a treatment plan.

Treatment plans may include both medication and therapy for an individual or family.

At Right Track Medical Group, all mental health services for children and adolescents are available at one location, eliminating fragmented care and speeding progress in treatment. 

There is no reason a child with a mental-health disorder cannot live a happy, normal life.
— Sondra Bennett, PMHNP-BC

“Getting the right mental-health treatment early can be even more critical for children and adolescents who are in important developmental stages,” Bennett said. “Defining healthy coping skills early can lessen the impact that a mental-health disorder can have. There is no reason a child with a mental-health disorder cannot live a happy, normal life.” 

Lucy Schultze