Gaps in mental health infrastructure for youth identified in many US communities

Mental health facilities that provide outpatient specialty services for youth are a critical element of the mental health care infrastructure, especially for youth who are uninsured or publically insured.

In a Viewpoint article in the February 13 issue of JAMA, Janet Cummings, PhD, assistant professor of health policy and management at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health, presents data from the 2008 National Survey of Facilities and examines the extent to which gaps exist in the mental system for youth.

Based on survey data from facilities that provide specialty , such as psychiatric hospitals, residential treatment centers, freestanding outpatient clinics or partial-care facilities, and multiservice mental health facilities, only 63 percent of U.S. counties have at least one mental health facility that provides outpatient treatment for youth. Less than half of U.S. counties have a mental health facility with special programs for youth with severe emotional disturbance. The gaps in infrastructure are even larger in rural communities, where less than half even have one mental health facility that provides outpatient care and only one-third has outpatient facilities with specific programs for youth with severe illness.

"These numbers are especially concerning because these facilities are a critical resource for the uninsured and publically insured, which accounts for almost half of our nation's youth," explains Cummings. "Given these gaps in the mental health care infrastructure, policies need to be implemented that ensure specialty mental health treatment is available for all youth who need services – especially youth with the most severe ."

The article also suggests that current estimates of the infrastructure gaps could be worse than the estimates from the 2008 survey due to ongoing . Between 2009 and 2012, states eliminated more than $1.6 billion in general funds from their state mental health agency budgets, which adversely affected services and programs for both youth and adults with serious mental illness.

"The recent attention to access has ignited a more critical examination of the mental health treatment system for youth," explains Cummings. "These gaps in geographic access to facilities are compounded by other problems such as provider shortages and stigma, which will ultimately require a comprehensive strategy from policymakers to yield meaningful improvements for this system."

Related Stories

New research supports youth with mood and anxiety disorders

date Apr 11, 2012

75% of mental illnesses emerge by age 25. Mood and anxiety disorders are among the most common conditions, yet there is little support for youth in this age group. A new study from Lawson Health Research Institute shows that ...

Recommended for you

What makes a good horror movie?

date Jul 03, 2015

Like them or hate them horror films are big business and a string of new horror films are hitting the big screen this year. But what creates the intensity of suspense? And was Alfred Hitchcock – the master ...

Decoding the statistical language of the brain

date Jul 02, 2015

Let's make a bet. You will throw a dart 10 feet and – if you hit a two-inch circular target on the wall across the room – I will give you a dollar. Otherwise, you pay me a dollar.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.