Young people often face barriers to psychiatric care and are increasingly seeking crisis services for mental health issues through the emergency department (ED). Urgent psychiatric care models provide youth in crisis with rapid access to time-limited mental health care on an outpatient basis. This scoping review aims to evaluate the impact of such urgent psychiatric services for youth aged 13–25 on patient and health system outcomes.
We conducted a literature search on PubMed, EMBASE, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews for studies published from inception to November 20, 2020. We included studies that described outpatient psychiatric services designed for youth aged 13 to 25, took place in a clinical setting, and offered any combination of assessment, treatment, and referral. We excluded studies describing suicide intervention programmes.
Our search yielded six studies, four of which were descriptive studies and two of which were randomized controlled trials. Most studies found that access to urgent psychiatric care for youth was associated with reduced ED volumes, fewer health system costs, and fewer hospitalizations. None of the studies presented evidence that urgent psychiatric services are associated with improved patient symptomatology or functioning.
The results of this scoping review highlight the scarcity of robust evidence evaluating the effectiveness of urgent care for youth mental health. Further experimental studies and a set of standardized quality measures for evaluating these services are needed to bridge this critical gap in mental health care for youth in crisis.