Research has focused on changes in the psychiatric treatment of youth in outpatient settings, but less is known about trends in inpatient care. This study documents changes in the lengths of stay (LOS), clinical profiles of youth, and medication use within an inpatient setting in Massachusetts between 1991 and 2008. A chart review of 233 medical records of psychiatrically hospitalized youth was conducted at three points in time (1991, 1998, and 2008). Sample includes youth between ages 4 and 18. Clinical data, including LOS, diagnoses and other clinical variables, and number and type of medications prescribed were compared across sample years. Findings indicate a significant decrease in the LOS coupled with a concurrent increase in psychotropic medication use between each successive sample year. The prescription of anti-psychotic medications, in particular, increased significantly. On clinical indices, findings show that there was an increase in the diagnosis of bipolar spectrum disorders and a concurrent decrease in unipolar diagnoses in the 2008 sample. Attention-deficit and developmental disorders showed little change. Trauma-related disorders were significantly less frequently diagnosed in 2008. Children hospitalized in 1998 and 2008 had more prior hospitalizations and presented with greater acuity than those in the 1991 sample. Results highlight important changes that have occurred in child/adolescent inpatient settings over the past two decades. Data suggest that these changes have not resulted in decreased rates of inpatient hospitalization for youth with more severe psychiatric disorders.
Psychiatric Quarterly – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 2, 2012
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