(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Nearly half of children on Medicaid lack outpatient follow-up after they receive mental health emergency care.
A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics reveals only 56% of kids on Medicaid who sought emergency care for mental health concerns received follow-up care within 30 days.
“We're sending them home from the Emergency Department, saying, ‘Hey, you don't meet criteria to go for an inpatient psychiatric admission,’ but then they also aren't getting that follow-up that they need to help support healing,” said Dr. Polina Krass, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and co-author of the study.
Researchers analyzed more than 28,000 kids between the ages of 6 and 17 enrolled in Medicaid across 11 states, including Illinois.
Black children were especially affected, with 10% fewer receiving outpatient appointments compared to white children.
“Our results show the dire need to improve access to outpatient mental health services for children,” said lead author Jennifer Hoffmann, MD, MS, Emergency Medicine physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
“We especially need to remove barriers to mental health care for Black children.”
Hoffman says strategies to grant wider access to care may include reducing stigma about mental health treatment and improving diversity in the pediatric mental health workforce.
In 2022, follow-up care within seven and 30 days after a mental health ED visit was added to the National Child Core Set of quality measures, and state Medicaid agencies will be required to report annual adherence rates starting in 2024.
“For kids who need support, the best that we can offer them is trying to connect them with outpatient resources,” added Krass. “And unfortunately, our study indicates that we just don't have enough of those resources for the kids who need help.”