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Week of April 8, 2013

Access to mental health care lacking for children, teens

Every day, news reports detail the impact of the deficiencies in the nation’s mental health care services. Even more startling, a U-M survey reveals that many adults across the United States believe children and teens have extremely limited or no access to mental health care services.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation commissioned the National Voices Project to facilitate a five-year study to gauge opportunities available for children and teens at the local level in communities across the U.S. Officials at the National Voices Project based their study on the perceptions held by adults who work and volunteer on behalf of children day-to-day.

“The adults in the National Voices Project survey work or volunteer on behalf of kids. These are the adults who are perhaps best positioned to refer children and teens to the health care services they need,” says Dr. Matthew M. Davis, director of the National Voices Project, associate professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases, and associate professor of public policy.

Survey participants were asked how much availability there is in their communities for children and teens to receive health care services. More than half of all respondents note that there is “lots of availability” for teens to have hospital care (55 percent) and primary care (56 percent) in their communities, but across all health care services, only 30 percent reported “lots of availability” for mental health care. Health care availability for children was very similar.

“These findings indicate low availability of mental health care for children and teens in the majority of communities across the U.S.,” says Davis. “Even in communities where there are lots of opportunities for children and teens to get primary care or hospital care, access to mental health care is lacking.”

In addition, in communities where respondents perceived racial or ethnic inequities, they consistently reported less access to all health care services, including mental health, especially for teens.

The full survey shows that where there are perceived inequities at the community level there are also perceptions of diminished opportunities for young children and teens in the domains of nutrition, health, and health care.

To read the full report, go to tinyurl.com/ch3zers.

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