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March 2022Vol. 23, No. 2Behavioral Health Services Access for Youth in Foster Care

recent issue brief from the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission addresses the access of children and youth in foster care to behavioral health services. Specifically, the authors use data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) to analyze the experiences of children and youth ages 12 to 17 who have spent at least 1 day in foster care in the last year, including the prevalence of certain behavioral health conditions and access to services. They also compared experiences of youth with health coverage through Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to those with private coverage. The authors note that NSDUH data are self-reported, which could impact findings.

The data revealed that 63.5 percent of youth in foster care were enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP, and many of these youth experience behavioral health conditions and receive treatment. 

Other major findings reported in the brief include the following: 
  • Most of the sample population reported that they had access to substance use disorder treatment when needed. 
  • Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries generally received mental health services at slightly lower rates compared with their peers with private coverage. 
  • More than 25 percent of the sample population reported experiencing a major depressive episode at some point in their life. 
  • Nearly 20 percent of the sample population reported having a substance use disorder in the past year. 
For more information, including data tables, read the full brief, Access in Brief: Behavioral Health Services for Youth in Foster Care