The objective of this study was to identify factors associated with parent-reported problems accessing needed mental health services (MHS) in youth with autism spectrum disorder and anxiety.
This study is a secondary analysis using the National Survey of Children's Health 2016 to 2017 data sets with multivariable logistic regression. Subjects are 6 to 17 year olds with parent-reported autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and anxiety. Outcome is parent-reported challenge accessing needed mental health treatment, dichotomized to not a problem versus problem. Covariates included race/ethnicity, intellectual disability, insurance, medical home, poverty level, and parent education level.
The sample included 568 youth with ASD and anxiety—78% male subjects, mean age 12.5 years, and 63% White, non-Hispanic. Fifty-three percent of youth with ASD and anxiety had parent-reported problems accessing needed MHS. Lack of medical home (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 5.97, 95% confidence interval [CI] [2.72–13.09]) and coexisting intellectual disability (aOR 2.23, 95% CI [1.08–4.60]) were significantly associated with problems accessing MHS. Reported family incomes at 0% to 99% and 100% to 199% of the federal poverty level as compared with family income at 400% federal poverty level or above (aOR 0.32, 95% CI [0.11–0.94] and aOR 0.35, 95% CI [0.13–0.95], respectively) was associated with decreased problems accessing MHS.
In this nationally representative study, more than half of youth with ASD and anxiety had parent-reported problems accessing needed MHS. Lack of a medical home, co-occurring intellectual disability, and higher socioeconomic status (SES) are associated with problems accessing MHS. Therefore, policies to support the medical home; increase mental health supports available for those with ASD, anxiety, and coexisting intellectual disability; and support access for all SES levels may increase mental health access.