The Availability of Peer Support and Disparities in Outpatient Mental Health Service Use Among Minority Youth with Serious Mental Illness

Victoria D. Ojeda, Michelle R. Munson, Nev Jones, Emily Berliant, Todd P. Gilmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We examine whether the availability of peer support reduces disparities in service use among minority youth ages 16–24 with serious mental illness in Los Angeles and San Diego Counties. Administrative data from 2015–2018 was used to summarize service use among 13,363 transition age youth age 16–24 with serious mental illness who received services from 183 outpatient public mental health programs; 17.2% were Black, 67.4% were Latinx, and 15.4% were non-Latinx white. The availability of peer support was assessed via a program survey. Generalized linear models were used to assess the relationship between availability of peer support, defined as having a peer specialist on staff, and the annual number of outpatient mental health visits. We also examined the relationship between racial/ethnic concordance of youth and peer specialists and use of outpatient services. Forty-six percent of youth received services from programs that employed peer specialists. Among youth in both counties, the availability of peer support was associated with an increase in annual outpatient visits (P ≤ .05 each). Peer support was associated with reductions in service use disparities among Black and Latinx youth in Los Angeles County (P <.001 each). Peer concordance was associated with an increase in outpatient service use among Latinx youth in both counties (P <.05 each). Peer support was associated with increases in use of outpatient mental health services. Detailed examination of the context for youth peer support implementation is merited to identify the specific pathways that improve outcomes.

Keywords

  • Disparities
  • Mental health service use
  • Minority youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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