According to research presented at an annual meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the current shortage of medical professionals and care facilities in the United States is causing a traffic jam for those seeking emergency room services for mental health care. Many researchers say children are the most impacted by these barriers. One in five children are diagnosed with a mental health condition every year, and many of them end up in the emergency room after early intervention opportunities are passed over.
A combination of economic, political, and logistic factors has contributed to a growing crisis in health care as the demand for services continues to outpace the number of providers. While the effect is felt by many people seeking emergency services, those with mental health conditions tend to be in the emergency room for longer periods of time. They are also more likely to require admission into inpatient facilities. Both time and space have been restricted by inaccessible services, and people needing psychiatric care have had to deal with multiple barriers as a result.
Mental Health Service Statistics
The presentations at the annual meeting featured several scientific abstracts that illustrated the circumstances people with mental health issues face when seeking treatment. Presentations were based on data obtained from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.
Emergency room visits for people with mental health issues usually require extra time to go along with the increased rates of admission and transfer. About 23% of people with mental health conditions stayed in the emergency room for more than 6 hours, in comparison to 10% of emergency room patients with physical issues. Additionally, stays of 24 hours or more were needed by about 1.3% of people with mental health concerns compared to 0.5% of those with physical ailments.
Mental Health Service Shortages
Researchers stated one of the main problems contributing to the emergency room bottleneck is a lack of inpatient beds for those with mental health concerns. People affected by this situation often repeatedly visit emergency rooms because they do not have access to the continuous treatments they need. Instead of going to the emergency room, they would likely have to rely on family practitioners who are rarely trained to provide the appropriate services.
The issue is only compounded when combined with a shortage of one-on-one mental health professionals in the average community, especially when it comes to pediatric psychological services. Even if they do get the services they need in the emergency room, follow-up care is often limited or completely nonexistent.
Researchers say there is no easy fix. Systematic changes at an institutional level may be required for people to get the kind of immediate treatment they need.
- Ambulatory health care data. (2016, July 29). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/ahcd/
- Luthra, S. (2016, October 17). How gaps in mental health care play out in emergency rooms. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/10/17/498270772/how-gaps-in-mental-health-care-play-out-in-emergency-rooms
- Lynch, S., Bautista, M., Freer, C., Kalynych, C., & Hendry, P. (2015). Child mental health services in the emergency department: Disparities in access. Pediatric Emergency Care, 31(7), 473-478. doi:10.1097/PEC.0000000000000336
© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.