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Study: With Mass. Mental Health Screenings, Kids 'At Risk' Balloon From 6,000 To 20,000


Recently, WBUR's series "Are The Kids All Right?" explored the landscape of children's mental health in Massachusetts. Now here's a new data point: Under new state rules requiring pediatricians to screen children for mental health issues, the number of children considered "at risk" has more than tripled. (Whether there is enough treatment available to help those children is a whole other question.) A press release from Massachusetts General Hospital today says:


BOSTON – A study published in the March, 2011 Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine shows that Massachusetts' new court-ordered mental health screening and intervention program led to more children being identified as being behaviorally and emotionally at risk. The program is called the Children's Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI).

The study, led by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), looked at Medicaid well-child visits that included behavioral screens from 2008-2009. They found that, under the new mandate, the number of screens completed in the state increased from 80,000 a year to 300,000 per year. The number of children with emotional/behavioral problems identified by the screens also more than tripled, from about 6,000 per year to more than 20,000 per year. A separate set of analyses showed that referrals for mental health evaluations for children with Medicaid also increased significantly in Massachusetts at this time.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Kuhlthau of Massachusetts General Hospital, says “increased screening is a first important step in assuring that children get the mental health services that they need.”

This program aired on March 7, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth blog.

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