The study revealed several concerning trends in the utilization of acute mental health care among youth during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic witnessed significant changes in the utilization of acute mental health care services among youth aged 5 to 17 years. The findings of this cross-sectional study demonstrated a rise in mental health emergency department (ED) visits, psychiatric admissions, length of inpatient psychiatric stay, and prolonged boarding.1
The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted various aspects of society, including mental health. Understanding how the utilization of acute mental health care services has changed among youth during the pandemic is crucial for effectively directing resources and providing appropriate support.
Lindsay Overhage, MD-PhD candidate, Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, and a team of investigators, conducted a recent cross-sectional study that analyzed data to investigate the changes in mental health care utilization among youth aged 5 to 17 years during the second year of the pandemic.
The study utilized national, deidentified commercial health insurance claims of youth mental health ED and hospital care between March 2019 and February 2022. The investigators compared the data from the baseline year (March 2019-February 2020) with the second year of the pandemic (March 2021-February 2022).
Included in the analysis were 4.1 million commercial insurance enrollees, with 17,614 youth having at least 1 mental health ED visit in the baseline year and 16,815 in year 2. Results revealed several concerning trends in the utilization of acute mental health care among youth during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the research, this underscores the urgent need for interventions to address the increasing demand for acute mental health care among youth during the COVID-19 pandemic. The investigators specifically emphasized multiple recommendations:
To address these concerning trends, interventions focused on expanding inpatient child psychiatry capacity and reducing strain on the acute mental health care system are imperative, the team wrote.