Mental health service use during the transition to adulthood for adolescents reported to the child welfare system
OBJECTIVE: This study analyzed patterns of outpatient mental health service use from adolescence into early adulthood among young adults who were reported as victims of maltreatment in adolescence. METHODS: Data were from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, a national probability study of children for whom maltreatment was investigated by the child welfare system. The sample consisted of 616 young adults aged 12 to 15 at baseline. Analysis used descriptive statistics to determine need for and use of outpatient mental health services across time. Logistic regression was used to examine predictors of use of outpatient mental health services in young adulthood. RESULTS: Almost half of the young adults in this sample had one or more indicators of mental health problems. There was a significant decrease in use of specialty mental health services from adolescence to young adulthood, declining from 47.6% at baseline, to 14.3% at the five- to six- year follow-up. Among young adults with mental health problems, less than a quarter used outpatient mental health services. Logistic regression results indicated that having mental health problems, having Medicaid, and being white were positively associated with use of outpatient mental health services in young adulthood. CONCLUSIONS: Mental health problems were prevalent among young adults who were suspected of being maltreated when they were adolescents, but only about a quarter of those in need used outpatient mental health services. Interventions to improve access to outpatient mental health services for this vulnerable population should particularly support outreach and engagement of young adults who are uninsured and from racial or ethnic minority groups with a history of involvement with the child welfare system in order to meet their unique developmental needs.