Outcomes, evidence-based treatments, and disparities in a statewide outpatient children's behavioral health system

Jason M. Lang, Phyllis Lee, Christian M. Connell, Tim Marshall, Jeffrey J. Vanderploeg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Purpose: Many questions remain about the effectiveness of behavioral health treatments for children in large systems of care, including the use of evidence-based treatments (EBTs). The goals of this study were to 1) describe outcomes of children receiving treatment in a statewide system, overall and separately for demographic groups; 2) describe penetration rates of EBTs and examine outcomes by treatment type and 3) examine moderation of treatment type by demographic group. Methods: Participants were 46,399 children receiving behavioral health services at one of 25 outpatient clinics in a state system between 2013 and 2017. Administrative data included child demographic characteristics, treatment type, and problem severity based on the Ohio Scales. Propensity score methods were used to analyze EBT effects compared to no EBT conditions, and interactions with demographic groups. Results: The overall pre- to post-treatment effect size across all treatment types was medium (Cohen's d = 0.49 to 0.51) and similar to prior research. White children showed greater improvements than Black or Hispanic children, 7 to 12-year olds improved more than younger and older children, and females improved more than males. Almost half (47%) of children received cognitive behavioral therapy, and an additional 12.4% received another EBT. Children receiving EBTs showed greater improvement than those not receiving an EBT. The relative benefits of EBTs were mostly consistent across sex, age, and race/ethnicity, but EBTs were associated with some reductions in disparities by race/ethnicity (particularly for Hispanic youth and more modestly for Black youth) and age. Conclusions: Outcomes for children receiving behavioral health treatment in a statewide system were modest. EBTs can be disseminated within large systems and have potential for improving overall outcomes for children from diverse backgrounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105729
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Jan 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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