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Int J Health Serv. 2016 Oct;46(4):810-24. doi: 10.1177/0020731416662736. Epub 2016 Aug 12.

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Mental Health Care for Children and Young Adults: A National Study.

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Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, Hempstead, NY, USA
City University of New York at Hunter College, School of Public Health, New York, NY, USA Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.


Psychiatric and behavior problems are common among children and young adults, and many go without care or only receive treatment in carceral settings. We examined racial and ethnic disparities in children's and young adults' receipt of mental health and substance abuse care using nationally representative data from the 2006-2012 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys. Blacks' and Hispanics' visit rates (and per capita expenditures) were about half those of non-Hispanic whites for all types and definitions of outpatient mental health services. Disparities were generally larger for young adults than for children. Black and white children had similar psychiatric inpatient and emergency department utilization rates, while Hispanic children had lower hospitalization rates. Multivariate control for mental health impairment, demographics, and insurance status did not attenuate racial/ethnic disparities in outpatient care. We conclude that psychiatric and behavioral problems among minority youth often result in school punishment or incarceration, but rarely mental health care.


children; mental health care; racial and ethnic disparities; young adults

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