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Postacute Care after Pediatric Hospitalizations for a Primary Mental Health Condition

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OBJECTIVES: To determine the proportion of US children hospitalized for a primary mental health condition who are discharged to postacute care (PAC); whether PAC discharge is associated with demographic, clinical, and hospital characteristics; and whether PAC use varies by state.

STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study of a nationally representative sample of US acute care hospitalizations for children ages 2-20 years with a primary mental health diagnosis, using the 2009 and 2012 Kids' Inpatient Databases. Discharge to PAC was used as a proxy for transfer to an inpatient mental health facility. We derived adjusted logistic regression models to assess the association of patient and hospital characteristics with discharge to PAC.

RESULTS: In 2012, 14.7% of hospitalized children (n = 248 359) had a primary mental health diagnosis. Among these, 72% (n = 178 214) had bipolar disorder, depression, or psychosis, of whom 4.9% (n = 8696) were discharged to PAC. The strongest predictors of PAC discharge were homicidal ideation (aOR, 24.9; 96% CI, 4.1-150.4), suicide and self-injury (aOR, 15.1; 95% CI, 11.7-19.4), and substance abuse-related medical illness (aOR, 5.0; 95% CI, 4.5-5.6). PAC use varied widely by state, ranging from 2.2% to 36.3%.

CONCLUSIONS: The majority of children hospitalized primarily for a mood disorder or psychosis were not discharged to PAC, and safety-related conditions were the primary drivers of the relatively few PAC discharges. There was substantial state-to-state variation. Target areas for quality improvement include improving access to PAC for children hospitalized for mood disorders or psychosis and equitable allocation of appropriate PAC resources across states.


Gay JC, Zima BT, Coker TR, Doupnik SK, Hall M, Rodean J, O'Neill M, Morse R, Rehm KP, Berry JG, Bardach NS