MONDAY, Feb. 13, 2023 (HealthDay News) — More than one-quarter of children with an emergency department visit for mental health (MH) return to the emergency department or are hospitalized within six months, according to a study published online Feb. 13 in Pediatrics.

Jennifer A. Hoffmann, M.D., from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues conducted a retrospective study involving 28,551 children aged 6 to 17 years with MH emergency department discharges from January 2018 to June 2019 to examine the odds of nonemergent patient follow-up. The association between timely follow-up and risk for return MH acute care encounters was examined.

The researchers found that 31.2 and 55.8 percent of children had an outpatient MH visit within seven and 30 days, respectively, following MH emergency department discharge. Within six months, the return rate was 26.5 percent. Children with ≥14 past-year MH visits had 9.53 higher adjusted odds of accessing follow-up care within 30 days compared with those with no past-year outpatient MH visits. Timely follow-up within 30 days was associated with a significantly reduced risk for return within five days of the index emergency department discharge (hazard ratio, 0.74); however, the risk for return increased thereafter.

“Interventions that promote connection to follow-up care after a MH emergency department discharge should target linkage to outpatient services within five days to maximize opportunities to reduce return visits,” the authors write.

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