To estimate the number and geographic distribution of children and adolescents in the United States who reside in counties with neither child and adolescent psychiatrists nor sufficient Internet broadband to support telepsychiatry services.
This analysis combined data from the Health Resources and Services Administration's Area Health Resource Files on child psychiatrist workforce with Federal Communications Commission information on broadband coverage to generate a composite of in-person and digital access to child psychiatric services throughout the United States. Using multivariable fixed-effects Poisson regression analysis, we estimated the number of children and adolescents (aged 5-19 years) without access to psychiatric services and examined disparities across counties in the United States.
We estimate that 6,035,402 children and adolescents in the United States (approximately 10%) have inadequate in-person and digital availability of child psychiatric services within their counties. Although this was true for only 3% of children and adolescents in urban counties, this applied to more than half (51%) in rural counties (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 2.71; 95% CI = 1.94, 3.78; p < .001). Likewise, only 3% of children and adolescents in high-income counties had insufficient digital and physical access, compared to more than 4 in 10 children and adolescents (41%) in low-income counties (AOR = 0.43; 95% CI = 0.30-0.61; p < .001). Counties with a higher density of Black and Hispanic residents had greater likelihood of service availability (p < 0.001), potentially a function of living in metropolitan communities.
Although telehealth holds promise for promoting access to child and adolescent psychiatric services, large disparities in overall access to services persists in rural and low-income communities.