Study finds 3 out of 4 children with mental health needs don't get treated

UCLA researchers say only one-quarter of California children aged 4-11 with mental health needs receive treatment.
UCLA researchers say only one-quarter of California children aged 4-11 with mental health needs receive treatment. Maya Sugarman/KPCC

A UCLA study released Thursday suggests only about a quarter of California children with mental health needs receive treatment.

The study, based on a 2007 to 2009 survey of parents, found that about 300,000 California children - ages 4 to 11 -  have mental health needs.  

And while more than 90 percent of them reportedly had health insurance, about 70 percent nevertheless went without treatment, the study found.

“When we think of access (to health care) as having insurance...these children have access,” said Imelda Padilla-Frausto, lead author of the study.  “The fact that they aren’t getting mental health treatment suggests there are other barriers besides health insurance."

Among those likely barriers, she says, are challenges with navigating the healthcare system; stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment; and language difficulties. 

The study found, for example, that among children whose parents were not proficient in English, 89 percent went without mental health treatment, compared to 67 percent of those from English-proficient households. 
 
Padilla-Frausto says eliminating barriers to early treatment of mental health issues may help children avoid more serious mental disorders later in life.

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