Kids' Mental Health Care Varies by State

RAND study reveals wide disparities in use and need

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MONDAY, Oct. 6, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A review of mental health care for children revealed wide disparities in 13 states that represent a cross-section of the nation.

The comparison, done by researchers from RAND Health, found that mental health programs serve a far greater share of children in some states than in others, but that states with a higher use of children's mental health services don't necessarily have a higher need for them.

For example, states like Texas and Alabama have high rates of need and low rates of use, while Washington state has a low level of need and a high level of use.

In Alabama, 8.3 percent of children require mental health services but only 6.5 percent are using those services. Those figures are 7.9 percent and 5.7 per cent, respectively, in Texas.

In contrast, 5.9 percent of children in Washington state require mental health services and 8 percent of children are using those services. Those figures are 7.1 percent and 11.6 percent, respectively, in Massachusetts.

"A white child from a higher income family in Texas is less likely to get services than a poorer Hispanic child with similar need in Massachusetts," researcher and RAND health economist Roland Sturm says in a statement.

"Our findings suggest that these differences are most likely caused by differences in state policies and health-care markets that make services more or less available," Sturm says.

He and his colleagues say the study highlights the need for more mental health services in many states. The study findings also suggest some states do a better job of ensuring that mental health services are directed to children with the greatest need.

The study appears in the October issue of Pediatrics.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about child and adolescent mental health.

SOURCE: RAND, news release, Oct. 6, 2003

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