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Ethnic Differences in Children’s Entry into Public Mental Health Care via Emergency Mental Health Services


For children and youth making a mental health crisis visit, we investigated ethnic disparities in whether the children and youth were currently in treatment or whether this crisis visit was an entry or reentry point into mental health treatment. We gathered Medicaid claims for mental health services provided to 20,110 public-sector clients ages 17 and younger and divided them into foster care and non-foster care subsamples. We then employed logistic regression to analyze our data with sociodemographic and clinical controls. Among children and youth who were not placed in foster care, African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans were significantly less likely than Caucasians to have received mental health care during the three months preceding a crisis visit. Disparities among children and youth in foster care were not statistically significant. Ethnic minority children and youth were more likely than Caucasians to use emergency care as an entry or reentry point into the mental health treatment, thereby exhibiting a crisis-oriented pattern of care.

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