The study goal is to examine the aggressive enforcement of Medicaid's (Medi-Cal's) Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment program (EPSDT) to learn whether reducing important structural barriers to public mental health care by providing generous financing, increasing treatment capacity, and engaging with community-based programs and organizations will bring about the desired policy effect of equalizing spending and treatment patterns among low-income white and ethnic minority children and youth.
Study aims are: 1) Estimate the extent to which California's EPSDT mental health program expansion reduced disparities in spending for African American, Latino and Native American Medi-Cal enrolled children and youth. Determine how much reduction in spending disparities was immediate and how much it constituted minority-white convergence in trends. 2) Estimate the extent to which California's enforcement of EPSDT mental health services reduced disparities in access (measured by overall penetration rates;outpatient treatment penetration rates;and crisis treatment penetration rates) for African American, Latino and Native American Medi-Cal enrolled children and youth. Determine how much reduction in access disparities was immediate and how much it constituted minority-white convergence in trends. 3) Estimate for each dependent measure described in 1 and 2 above the extent to which reduced minority-white disparities was associated with: a) increases in total provider supply and Spanish-speaking provider supply;and b) increased engagement with community-based organizations including those with an ethnic minority focus. Using panel data multivariate regression methods in a kind of "interrupted time-series" approach (Shadish, Cook &Campbell, 2002), we control for factors correlated with aggressive EPSDT enforcement that could confound our assessment of its impact on cost and access disparities. We will observe costs and penetration rates before and after EPSDT enforcement over 48 quarters (July 1992 - June 2004) and across the 57 California county mental health plans. Since our focus is on changes in disparities between ethnic minorities and whites over time, any potential confounds must differentially affect ethnic minorities or whites to influence study results. To further test hypotheses, we contrast disparities in sub-samples minimally affected by, and unaffected by, EPSDT enforcement. Medi-Cal Specialty Mental Health Claims data and Medi-Cal enrollment data obtained from the California Department of Mental Health will be used.
The lack of mental health access and treatment for children and adolescents is a serious public health problem raised by the Surgeon General in his 2000 report. Low access is especially pronounced among ethnic minority populations for whom mental illness is becoming a significant problem: in May 2007, the CDC issued a report stating that suicide was the fourth leading cause of death among youth, and that the highest rates have occurred among minority populations1. The proposed study will provide information for policymakers and administrators to understand the conditions under which existing financing and delivery systems can be levered to rapidly expand access and improve care for these children and youth. 1 Bernard SJ, Paulozzi LJ, Wallace DL;Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2007). Fatal injuries among children by race and ethnicity--United States, 1999-2002. MMWR Surveill Summ. May 18;56(5):1-16.