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National Survey: Access to Mental Health Care Lacking for U.S. Children, Teens

Only 30% of adults feel care is readily available for young people (Mar. 2)

According to a survey from the University of Michigan, many adults across the U.S. believe that children and teens have extremely limited or no access to appropriate mental health care services.

A 5-year study was conducted to gauge opportunities available for children and teens at the local level in U.S. communities. The study was based on perceptions held by adults who worked and volunteered on behalf of children day-to-day.

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 the respondents noted that there was “lots of availability” for teens to have hospital care (55%) and primary care (56%) in their communities, but across all health care services, only 30% of respondents reported “lots of availability” for mental health care. Health care availability for children was similar.

“These findings indicate low availability of mental health care for children and teens in the majority of communities across the U.S.,” said Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP. “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/ethnic inequities, they consistently reported less access to all health care services, including mental health, especially for teens. The survey showed that where perceived inequities exist 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.

The survey findings were based on responses from the National Voices Project Survey 2, fielded in August 2012. The respondents included 2,311 adults that worked or volunteered with children in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

Source: University of Michigan; April 2, 2013.

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