Mental health service use by children with serious emotional and behavioral disturbance: Results from the LAMS study

Amy N. Mendenhall, Christine Demeter, Robert L. Findling, Thomas W. Frazier, Mary A. Fristad, Eric A. Youngstrom, L. Eugene Arnold, Boris Birmaher, Mary Kay Gill, David Axelson, Robert A. Kowatch, Sarah Mc Cue Horwitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objective: The study described service utilization among children with emotional and behavioral disorders making a first visit to outpatient mental health clinics in four Midwest cities. Methods: Data were from the Longitudinal Assessment of Manic Symptoms study. A total of 707 youths aged six to 12 years 11 months and their parents completed diagnostic assessments; demographic information and mental health service use was self-reported. Analyses examined the relationship of demographic variables, diagnoses, impairment, and comorbidity with type and level of services utilized. Results: Utilization was multimodal; half the youths had received outpatient and school services during their lifetime. Factors unrelated to need (age, sex, race, and insurance) were associated with service type. Children with a bipolar spectrum disorder had higher use of inpatient services than those with depressive or disruptive disorders and were more likely to currently use two or more services. More than half of youths with bipolar or depressive disorders had lifetime use of both medication and therapy, whereas youths with a disruptive behavior disorder were more likely to have used only therapy. Impairment and comorbidity were not related to service utilization. Conclusions: Use of services began at a very young age and occurred in multiple service sectors. Type of service used was related to insurance and race, underscoring the need for ongoing disparities research. Contrary to findings from administrative data analyses, use of medication alone was infrequent. The low rate of use of combination therapy suggests that clinicians and families need to be educated about the effectiveness of multimodal treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)650-658
Number of pages9
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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