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Public Library of Science

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The nature of services for psychiatric disorders in public health systems has been understudied, particularly with regard to frequency, duration, and costs. The current study examines patterns of service reception and costs among Medicaid-covered youth newly diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or behavioral disturbance in a large data set of provider billing claims submitted between 2015–2016. Eligibility criteria included: 1) identification of an initial diagnosis of a single anxiety, unipolar mood, or specific behavioral disorder; 2) continuous Medicaid eligibility over the duration of the time period studied; and 3) under 18 years of age on the date of initial psychiatric diagnosis. The final cohort included 7,627 cases with a mean age of 10.65 (±4.36), of which 58.04% were male, 57.09% were Black, 38.97% were White, and 3.95% were of other ethnicities. Data indicated that 65.94% of the cohort received at least some follow-up services within a median 18 days of diagnosis. Of those, 54.27% received a combination of medical and psychosocial services, 32.01% received medical services only, and 13.72% received psychosocial services only. Overall median costs for direct treatment were $576.69, with wide discrepancies between the lowest (anxiety = $308.41) and highest (behavioral disturbance = $653.59) diagnostic categories. Across all categories the frequency and duration of psychosocial services were much lower than would be expected in comparison to data from a well-known effectiveness trial. Overall, follow-up to psychiatric diagnosis could be characterized as highly variable, underutilized, and emphasizing biomedical treatment. Understanding more about these patterns may facilitate systematic improvements and greater cost efficiency in the future.


Health Services Research | Psychiatric and Mental Health

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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