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Risk and Selection Processes between the General and the Specialty Mental Health Sectors

David Mechanic, Ronald Angel and Lorraine Davies
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 32, No. 1 (Mar., 1991), pp. 49-64
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2136799
Page Count: 16
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Risk and Selection Processes between the General and the Specialty Mental Health Sectors
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Abstract

This paper examines risk, defined as the threat of danger or disruption, as a contextual concept important for understanding patterns of patient selection and referral. We explore the hypothesis that risks associated with mental disorder, as represented by factors such as thoughts about suicide or problems associated with drinking, increase the probability of referral of patients receiving mental health care from general medical practitioners to the specialty mental health sector. Interview and claims data from the RAND Health Insurance Experiment, a large experimental study of coinsurance, are used to examine referral processes over a five-year period. Risk, and especially a measure of suicide thoughts, increase the probability of referral to specialty care. Women and persons with higher education are more likely to use specialty services; older persons are less likely to use such services. Understanding referral requires attention to the behavioral contingencies and illness behavior surrounding the presentation of mental disorder.

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