Almost Half of Children Who Go to ER With Mental Health Crisis Don’t Get the Follow-Up Care They Need, Study Finds

June 09, 2023

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News


A new study found that many children don’t receive the follow-up care they need following a mental emergency department visit. This study examined the records of more than 28,000 children ages 6 to 17 enrolled in Medicaid who made at least one trip to an emergency department between January 2018 and June 2019. It found only a third of children received follow-up care within 7 days of discharge, and just over half received care within 30 days. Research shows that timely follow-up care lowers suicide risk and decreases the likelihood of future mental health emergency department visits. Over a quarter of all children in the study returned to an emergency department for mental health reasons within six months of their initial visit. Experts believe a lack of providers able to provide pediatric follow-up care may be one barrier to children receiving timely support. “This new analysis adds to the overwhelming evidence that there is an urgent need to for a dramatic change in our pediatric mental health care system,” the authors of an accompanying commentary wrote. The study authors suggested policymakers invest in children’s mental health care, improve telehealth services, increase Medicaid-reimbursement rates for mental health services, and fund training for future pediatric mental health professionals.

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