Change in mental health service use after offering youth-specific versus adult programs to transition-age youths

Todd P Gilmer, Victoria D Ojeda, Kya Fawley-King, Barbara Larson, Piedad Garcia
Psychiatric Services: a Journal of the American Psychiatric Association 2012, 63 (6): 592-6

OBJECTIVES: This study examined changes in service use associated with providing age-specific services for youths in their transitional years, ages 18–24.

METHODS: A quasi-experimental, difference-in-difference design with propensity score weighting was used to compare mental health service utilization (use of outpatient, inpatient, emergency, and justice system services) among 931 youths enrolled in outpatient programs specifically for transition-age youths and 1,574 youths enrolled in standard adult outpatient programs in San Diego County, California, from July 2004 through December 2009.

RESULTS: Among youths enrolled in outpatient programs geared toward youths of transitional age, the mean number of annual outpatient mental health visits increased by 12.2 (p<.001) compared with youths enrolled in standard adult outpatient programs.

CONCLUSIONS: Compared with traditional adult outpatient mental health programs, age-specific programs were associated with an increased use of outpatient mental health services. Future research is needed to assess the effectiveness of age-specific programs for transition-age youths and how use of these programs relates to improved clinical, educational, and vocational outcomes over time.

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