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A note on racial bias in the admission of children and adolescents to state mental health facilities versus correctional facilities in New York
Am J Psychiatry 1992;149:768-772.
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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: In response to several studies suggesting that there is racial bias in the admission of proportionately more white children and adolescents to the child and adolescent mental health system than to the juvenile justice system, the authors tested whether white children and adolescents would be overrepresented compared with black children and adolescents in mental health facilities and underrepresented compared with black children and adolescents in juvenile correctional facilities when ethnic distribution in the general population was controlled. METHOD: Ethnicity, age, and sex of all white, black, and Hispanic 10-18-year-olds admitted in a 1-year period to facilities of the Office of Mental Health and facilities of the correctional system (the Division for Youth) of New York State were converted into rates per 100,000 population by using U.S. census data for the state. Admission rates per 100,000 population for ethnicity, age, sex, and source of referral were then compared in the two types of facilities. RESULTS: There were no meaningful differences in population-corrected admission rates among black, white, and Hispanic children and adolescents in the state mental health system. In contrast, there was a vast preponderance of black children and adolescents admitted to the state juvenile correctional system. The systems have different points of entry: 100% of the juvenile justice admissions versus 17% of the mental health admissions were referred by the courts. CONCLUSIONS: Analysis of demographic variables failed to support an allegation of racial bias in admission to the child and adolescent public mental health system in New York State.

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