Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Mental Health Service Utilization among Youth Participating in Negative Externalizing Behaviors

K. Malhotra
R. Shim
P. Baltrus
H. J. Heiman
O. Adekeye
G. Rust


PURPOSES: Racial/ethnic differences in mental health service utilization were examined among youth who reported participating in negative externalizing behaviors. METHODS: The study utilized merged data from the 2007-2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) to examine differences in utilization of inpatient or outpatient mental health services not related to substance or alcohol use by White, Black and Hispanic youth who reported engaging in negative externalizing behaviors ("acting out"). Differences in service utilization in these groups were assessed using logistic regression models. RESULTS: Race/ethnicity was a significant predictor of outpatient mental health service use. Black and Hispanic children were less likely to use outpatient services. Inpatient service use decreased with increasing income. Parental presence in the household increased the likelihood of outpatient service use for minorities. CONCLUSION: Racial/ethnic minority youth in the United States continue to use outpatient mental health services at lower rates. This may lead to high prevalence of untreated negative externalizing behaviors among minority adolescent groups and, in turn, lead to use of inpatient services from systems such as juvenile justice and foster care. Such severe treatment alternatives can be prevented if timely and culturally tailored outpatient intervention is provided.