Identifying Opportunities to Improve Children’s Behavioral Health Care

An Analysis of Medicaid Utilization and Expenditures

By Center for Health Care Strategies

December 22, 2013


Children with behavioral health needs served by Medicaid require an array of services to support their health and well-being. However, the current system often does not meet their needs, resulting in missed opportunities to improve outcomes. To better understand the patterns of service use and costs for these children, the Center for Health Care Strategies analyzed behavioral health care use and expense for children in Medicaid in all 50 states. This brief highlights key findings from the analysis and points to significant opportunities for quality improvement in the organization, delivery and financing of care for children with behavioral health needs in Medicaid. For complete study findings, access the full report, Faces of Medicaid: Examining Children’s Behavioral Health Service Utilization and Expenditures. For more resources, visit the CHCS website.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaway

Opportunities Exist to Improve Children’s Behavioral Health Care

By examining patterns of behavioral health care use and expense in their own Medicaid programs, compared to the national baseline presented in this study, states can work toward targeted improvements in behavioral health care access, quality, and cost-effectiveness.

Findings & Stats

Chcs1 identifyingopportunitiestoimprovechildrenshealth totals

Less than 10% of children in Medicaid use behavioral health care, but this care accounts for roughly 38% of Medicaid expenditures for children.

Chcs1 identifyingopportunitiestoimprovechildrenshealth expensebyaid

Children in foster care and those on SSI/disability represent 33% of the Medicaid child population using behavioral health care, but 56% of total behavioral health expense.

Chcs1 identifyingopportunitiestoimprovechildrenshealth meds

Almost 50% of children in Medicaid prescribed psychotropic medications received no accompanying identifiable behavioral health services, like medication management.

Statements & Quotations