Factors Predicting Mental Health Outcomes in Pediatric Clients Receiving Services in an Integrated Health Care Setting
Through integrating mental health services within primary care clinics, providers are able to address inadequate access to mental health care in specialty settings. As mental health disorders are on the rise for children and adolescents, the need for prevention, early intervention, and treatment is vital in order to reduce psychiatric hospitalizations, involvement in the juvenile justice system, and problems later in adulthood. The integrated health care (IHC) model appears to be a practical and beneficial solution for youth experiencing mental and/or behavioral health issues. However, as IHC is fairly new to the counseling field, there is limited research focusing on mental health outcomes for children who sought out treatment in primary care settings. This study explored what socio-demographic and service-related factors predict 12-month mental health outcomes for youth who received IHC services. This researcher collected demographics, such as age, ethnicity/race, gender, parent's primary language, and the child's area-level socioeconomic status based on his or her residential zip code income, on youth receiving counseling in nine primary care clinics to examine if any of these factors are related to long term mental health outcomes. Service-related factors, such as the total number of counseling sessions received over 12 months, the frequency of counseling sessions, whether or not the child took psychotropic medications, and parent's satisfaction with IHC services, were examined to see if these variables influenced long term mental health outcomes as well. Data were analyzed using Hierarchical Linear Regression modeling. Sociodemographic factors, such as age and gender, were stronger predictors of 12-month mental and behavioral health outcomes than service-related outcomes. However, parent satisfaction with the IHC services at 12 months was the most predictive factor of the majority of mental health outcomes, indicating the importance of parents' role in a child's mental health treatment. Other findings, implications, and future research recommendations are presented.