Use of acute care for mental health concerns has been increasing among youth in recent years. Improving access to outpatient mental health services may prevent downstream acute care visits.
To examine differences in rates of acute mental health care visits among youth with- versus without prior outpatient mental health services.
A total of 2,442 youth ages 14-17 years participated in a provincially representative cross-sectional epidemiological survey, the 2014 Ontario Child Health Study. This sample was individually linked to health administrative databases, with nearly universal coverage of all medically necessary physician and acute care visits. Our exposure was parent and youth reported outpatient mental health service use in the six-month period prior to completing the survey. Exposed youth (n=691) were matched with unexposed youth using a propensity score informed by a range of clinical and socio-demographic factors. Our outcome was acute mental health care visits in the 18-month period following completion of the survey, ascertained though the linked health administrative data.
In our propensity score matched sample, we found no difference in rates of subsequent acute mental health care visits (HR= 1.14, 95%CI 0.44, 2.98) between youth with- versus without prior outpatient mental health services.
There is a need to further understand the types of services youth are receiving in outpatient settings to determine if, and for whom, outpatient mental health services reduces the likelihood of future acute mental health care visits.