Evaluation of Telehealth in Child Behavioral Health Services Delivery During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Elizabeth N. Riley, Kate D. Cordell, Stephen M. Shimshock, Rafael E. Perez Figueroa, John S. Lyons, Olga A. Vsevolozhskaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: The authors quantified the impact of the use of telehealth services on patient-level clinical outcomes among children with complex behavioral and emotional needs in Idaho during the COVID-19 pandemic by comparing data collected in 2020 with data for the same months in 2019. METHODS: Longitudinal statewide data of Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) assessments were extracted from Idaho's mental and behavioral health system. Prepandemic assessments were matched to midpandemic assessments. A linear mixed-effect model was used to explore four child-level outcomes: psychosocial strengths-building rate, rate of need resolution within a life-functioning domain, rate of need resolution within a behavior-emotional domain, and rate of need resolution within a high-risk behaviors domain. RESULTS: The number of new patients admitted to Idaho's state-funded mental and behavioral health program decreased almost twofold from April-December 2019 to April-December 2020 (N=4,458 vs. 2,794). For most children with complex needs, the use of telehealth was as effective in terms of strengths building and needs resolution as in-person services; for children whose caregivers had issues with access to transportation, availability of telehealth services improved outcomes for the children. CONCLUSIONS: The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was associated with a dramatic drop in the number of children served by Idaho's mental health program. Telehealth may effectively bridge mental health service delivery while patients and providers work toward the resolution of transportation issues or may serve as a more acceptable permanent format of service delivery for some populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-243
Number of pages7
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023


  • Adolescents
  • Behavior therapy
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus
  • Psychosocial outcome
  • Transportation needs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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