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Psychol Serv. 2008 Aug 1;5(3):251-261.

Predictors of Outpatient Mental Health Service Use by American Youth.

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Department of Mental Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.


Among American children and adolescents aged 1 to 17 years, the 12- to 17-year-olds represent the largest users of outpatient mental health services. This study utilizes a nationally representative sample of this age group from the 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health to illuminate predictors of services use from three treatment settings: day treatment programs, mental health clinics/centers, and private/in-home settings. Univariate analyses were used to calculate the percentages of the study sample that used mental health services in these settings. In bivariate analyses, the authors estimated the strength of the associations between available predisposing, need, and enabling factors and the outcomes. Multiple logistic regressions estimated the independent effects of each covariate on the outcomes. Lifetime depression, lifetime general anxiety, delinquent behaviors, drug dependence, and Medicaid were consistent predictors of services use in the three treatment settings. Several other factors were associated with services use in bivariate analyses but lost most of their statistical significance when the authors adjusted for other confounders. Interpreted in light of its potential limitations, this study has important research and policy significance.

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