Objective: To examine the usefulness of the Pediatric Symptom Checklist (PSC) as the psychosocial screening measure to meet federal Medicaid/Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) standards in a low-income Hispanic community.
Design and setting: Three hundred seventy-nine children (aged 6 to 16 years) were screened with the PSC in a 10-month period during well child visits to three clinics in Ventura and San Mateo counties in California. The PSC was available in English and Spanish and was administered both in written (paper-and-pencil) and oral formats. Follow-up services were provided for children identified as needing evaluation.
Results: The Cronbach alpha was high (r = 0.91) for the PSC in the whole sample and virtually identical for English, Spanish, oral, and written formats. All the PSC items were significantly associated with total score on the PSC in English, Spanish, oral, and written formats. Overall, the PSC identified 10.6% of the sample as at risk for psychosocial problems. Thirty-six children (9.5% of sample) were referred for mental health follow-up. Public health data from Ventura County showed a statistically significant increase in referrals for psychologic problems during the study period in two locations using the PSC: from 0.5% to 2.9% of the school-aged children seen.
Conclusion: The PSC provides a feasible, well-accepted method for screening for psychosocial problems during EPSDT examinations of school-aged children. Psychosocial screening using a validated instrument such as the PSC, as well as increased efforts to refer positive screening results, track outcomes, and assess cost benefits should be essential requirements in capitated Medicaid approaches to caring for poor children.