Many Children Not Receiving Needed Mental Health Treatment

MONDAY, Feb. 11, 2019 — About half of the estimated 16.5 percent of U.S. children with a treatable mental health disorder do not receive needed treatment from a mental health professional, according to a research letter published online Feb. 11 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Daniel G. Whitney, Ph.D., and Mark D. Peterson, Ph.D., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues used data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health to examine the prevalence of treatable mental health disorders and mental health care use. A total of 50,212 surveys were completed, representing children aged 0 to 17 years.

The researchers found that the national prevalence of at least one mental health disorder was 16.5 percent (weighted estimate, 7.7 million). All covariates, except for continuous insurance, correlated with mental health disorders after adjustment. There was variation in the prevalence of at least one mental health disorder between states, ranging from 7.6 percent in Hawaii to 27.2 percent in Maine. Overall, 49.4 percent of children with a mental health disorder did not receive needed treatment or counseling from a mental health professional, with variation from 29.5 percent in Washington, D.C., to 72.2 percent in North Carolina.

“Initiatives that assist systems of care coordination have demonstrated a reduction of mental health-related burdens across multiple domains,” the authors write. “Policy efforts aimed at reducing burden and improving treatment across states are needed.”

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Posted: February 2019

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