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Geographic Disparities in the Availability of Mental Health Services in U.S. Public Schools

Published:October 22, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2022.09.003

      Introduction

      The purpose of this study was to examine geographic variation in the availability of and barriers to school-based mental health services.

      Methods

      A weighted, nationally representative sample of U.S. public schools from the 2017–2018 School Survey on Crime and Safety was used. Schools reported the provision of diagnostic mental health assessments and/or treatment as well as factors that limited the provision of mental health services. Availability of mental health services and factors limiting service provision were examined across rurality, adjusting for school enrollment and grade level. The analysis was conducted in December 2021.

      Results

      Half (51.2%) of schools reported providing mental health assessments, and 38.3% reported providing treatment. After adjusting for enrollment and grade level, rural schools were 19% less likely, town schools were 21% less likely, and suburban schools were 11% less likely to report providing mental health assessments than city schools. Only suburban schools were less likely than city schools to provide mental health treatment (incidence rate ratio=0.85; 95% CI=0.72, 1.00). Factors limiting the provision of services included inadequate access to professionals (70.9%) and inadequate funding (77.0%), which were most common among rural schools.

      Conclusions

      Significant inequities in school-based mental health services exist outside of urban areas.
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