Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most prominent disorders among American youth. ADHD is especially prevalent among certain high-risk groups. Research has demonstrated, for example, that ADHD is the most common behavioral health diagnosis among children enrolled in Medicaid. A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) builds on this knowledge, demonstrating that youth enrolled in foster care are even more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than other youth enrolled in Medicaid. The study highlights the importance of evaluating and providing services to groups at-risk for disorders like ADHD.
Data for the study came from Medicaid claims from 2011, sourced from multiple states. The claims were for outpatient services and prescription drugs.
ADHD was more prevalent in foster children enrolled in Medicaid than in other children enrolled in Medicaid. Among foster youth aged 2 to 17, one in four children received an ADHD diagnosis, compared to only 1 in 14 for other children in Medicaid. Foster youth diagnosed with ADHD were also more likely to be diagnosed with another disorder. Approximately half of foster youth with ADHD were diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, depression, or anxiety. In comparison, around one in three children enrolled in Medicaid, but not foster care, were diagnosed with another disorder.
In regards to ADHD treatment, foster you were as likely to receive medication for ADHD as other youth in Medicaid. However, foster youth were more likely to have received psychological services. Around three in four youth with ADHD in foster care received some psychological care in 2011.
The results demonstrate a substantial need for behavioral services for children in foster care. The researchers point out that it is promising that many foster youth received psychological services for ADHD. Behavioral therapy is recommended as the first-line treatment for preschoolers with ADHD.
“As we work to improve the quality of care for children with ADHD, it will be important to consider the needs of special populations, including those in foster care. Working together, primary care and specialty clinicians can best support the health and long-term well-being of children with ADHD,” stated lead study author Melissa Danielson, MSPH, a statistician with the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
This research was presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2015 National Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C.
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