Racial/Ethnic Disparity Trends in Children's Mental Health Care Access and Expenditures From 2010-2017: Disparities Remain Despite Sweeping Policy Reform

Caryn R.R. Rodgers, Michael William Flores, Obioesio Bassey, Jenna M. Augenblick, Benjamin Lê Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine trends in mental health care use for Black and Latinx children and adolescents. Method: Data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey for 2010-2017 were analyzed to assess trends among youth ages 5-17 in use and expenditures for any mental health care, outpatient mental health care, and psychotropic medication prescription fills. Unadjusted trends for all youth and the subpopulation of youth reporting need for mental health care and disparities adjusting for need were examined. Results: Between 2010 and 2017, Black youth rates of any past year mental health care use decreased (from 9% to 8%), while White (from 13% to 15%) and Latinx (from 6% to 8%) youth rates increased. Among the subpopulation with need and in regression analysis adjusting for need, we identified significant Black–White and Latinx–White disparities in any mental health care use and any outpatient mental health care use in 2010-2011 and 2016-2017, with significant worsening of Black–White disparities over time. White youth were more than twice as likely as Latinx youth to use psychotropic medications, and Latinx–White and Black–White disparities in psychotropic medication prescription fills persisted over time. Black–White disparities existed in overall mental health expenditures (2016-2017) and outpatient mental health expenditures (2010-2011 and 2016-2017). Conclusion: Affordable, ubiquitous access to mental health care for Black and Latinx youth remains an elusive target. Significant disparities exist in receiving mental health care despite reforms and policies designed to increase mental health care access in the general population. Additional outreach and treatment strategies tailored to the cultural, linguistic, and structural needs of youth of color are required.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)915-925
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Medical Expenditure Panel Survey
  • children
  • mental health care access
  • mental health policy
  • racial/ethnic disparities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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