MENTAL HEALTH: Care Varies Widely By State for Children, Study Finds

October 6, 2003
Elias M

USA Today--October 6, 2003

Access to mental health care varies widely by state, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, USA Today reports. In the study, the first to examine geographic differences in children's mental health treatment, Roland Sturm, a senior economist at RAND, and colleagues surveyed parents of 40,112 children in 13 states. According to the report, Colorado, Minnesota and Massachusetts are the best at meeting children's needs for mental health treatment, while Florida, California and Texas offer the least help to children in need of mental health services. In states such as Alabama and Mississippi that offer good pediatric mental health treatment, children in families with low annual incomes are more likely to receive health care than children in wealthier families. In states like Texas and California, which have poor records of mental health care for children, children in wealthier families are more likely to get treatment. The geographic differences are likely related to disparities in public and private health plan coverage for mental health care, as well as cultural differences among states, USA Today reports. Richard Dougherty, a consultant on mental health services from Lexington, Mass., said that Medicaid mental health coverage varies "greatly" by state, USA Today reports. Stephen Mayberg, director of the California Department of Mental Health, added that in areas with large foreign-born populations, like California, Texas and Florida, immigrants are "not sure of the value of mental health services, and many are in low-paying jobs with no insurance" (Elias, USA Today, 10/6).