29% of kids don't get follow-up care for mental health issues, study finds

Mackenzie Bean - Print  | 

The type of treatment that children receive for mental health conditions — and the likelihood they receive follow-up care — varies greatly in the U.S., according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

Researchers analyzed insurance claims of more than 2 million children ages 10 to 17 covered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield between 2012 and 2018. Nearly 10 percent of children had a claim related to a mental health condition during this time period, reports STAT.

Seventy-one percent of children with an insurance claim for a mental health condition received follow-up care within three months. Forty-two percent of children were enrolled in therapy, 23 percent were prescribed medication, and 6 percent received both therapy and a medication within three months. 

Of the children who were prescribed a medication, 45 percent received a drug that is not FDA-approved for their age or that raises "a red flag when viewed through the lens of treatment guidelines," study authors said.

Very little of this care variation can be explained by shortages of mental health professionals, and about half of the variation occurred within the same ZIP codes, researchers said.

"These results suggest that other factors, such as physician practice style, may play an important role in the types of treatment that children receive," they concluded.

To view the study, click here.

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