National Estimates of Mental Health Utilization and Expenditures for Children in 1998

Published in: Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research, v. 28, no. 3, Aug. 2001, p. 319-333

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2000

by Jeanne S. Ringel, Roland Sturm

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No recent national data on expenditures and utilization are available to provide a benchmark for reform of mental health systems for children and adolescents. The most recent estimates, from 1986, predate the dramatic growth of managed care. This study provides updated national estimates. Treatment expenditures are estimated to be $11.68 billion ($172 per child). Adolescents have the highest expenditures at $293 per child followed by $163 per child aged 6 to 11 and $35 per preschool-aged child. Outpatient services account for 57%, inpatient for 33%, and psychotropic medications for 9% of the total. Unlike earlier reports, outpatient care now accounts for the majority of expenditures. This finding replicates the differences between recent managed care data and earlier actuarial databases for privately insured adults and confirms the trend from inpatient toward outpatient care.

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