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Adolescent Emergencies Task Force - Survey Results

NCJ Number
Date Published
10 pages
In late 1979, providers of emergency services to adolescents in crisis were surveyed in Allegheny County, Pa., to determine their scope, policies, and procedures, and to recommend improvements.
The United Mental Health Task Force on Adolescent Emergencies distributed questionnaires to 794 poviders; 165 were completed by schools, social service agencies, hospitals, practitioners, churches and temples, community mental health centers, universities, and the Allegheny County Police Department. Personal interviews were conducted with 21 respondents, 24 of the secondary schools were surveyed by telephone, and the remaining questionnaires were returned by mail. The task force's definition of an adolescent crisis emphasized that a combination of physical, emotional, and social factors contribute to a crisis situation (with the potential for suicide), but the survey responses indicated no consensus among the professional community as to what constituted an emergency situation. Although crisis services were technically available, the responses showed that many adolescents would have to wait a week before actually receiving help. Only community mental health centers, police, and hospitals responded to crisis on a continuous 24-hour basis. Statistical data on the numbers of adolescents served were incomplete, and confidentiality greatly varied. Most providers required the permission of someone other than the adolescent to begin treatment. Based on the survey findings, the task force recommended the adoption of a uniform confidentiality policy, that all emergency services operate on a 24-hour basis, and that adolescents be helped or referred immediately at inpatient and outpatient facilities. Agencies offering emergency services should review their policies, maintain accurate records, conduct evaluations, and provide special training for their staffs. The survey questionnaire with statistical data on the responses is appended.


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