THURSDAY, Sept. 24, 2020 — There is great variation in the treatment of mental illness in adolescents, according to a study published online Sept. 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Emily Cuddy and Janet Currie, Ph.D., both from Princeton University in New Jersey, used a large national database of insurance claims to examine variations in the type of care that adolescent patients receive when they are treated for an initial episode of mental illness.
The researchers observed large variations in the probability that children receive follow-up care and in the type of follow-up care received across ZIP codes. There was also large variation seen in the probability that children receive drug treatments, which may contradict treatment guidelines. In the three months following an initial claim for mental illness, 44.85 percent of children who received drug treatment were prescribed benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants, or a drug that is not U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved for their age. These children are, on average, 12 years old. Little of the overall variation is explained by supply-side variables, and at least half of the variation in treatment outcomes occurs by ZIP codes.
“If clinicians aren’t following guidelines, it is important to know whether this reflects their training or other factors, and how the care available to children with mental health issues can be improved,” Currie said in a statement.
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