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J Health Soc Behav. 1991 Mar;32(1):49-64.

Risk and selection processes between the general and the specialty mental health sectors.

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  • 1Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903.


This paper examines risk, defined as the threat of danger or disruption, as a contextual concept important for understanding patterns of patient selection and referral. We explore the hypothesis that risks associated with mental disorder, as represented by factors such as thoughts about suicide or problems associated with drinking, increase the probability of referral of patients receiving mental health care from general medical practitioners to the specialty mental health sector. Interview and claims data from the RAND Health Insurance Experiment, a large experimental study of coinsurance, are used to examine referral processes over a five-year period. Risk, and especially a measure of suicide thoughts, increase the probability of referral to specialty care. Women and persons with higher education are more likely to use specialty services; older persons are less likely to use such services. Understanding referral requires attention to the behavioral contingencies and illness behavior surrounding the presentation of mental disorder.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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