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Analysis

Hospital ERs a Mental Health Dumping Ground

By John Commins  
   October 19, 2016

A shortage of mental health resources is putting undue stress on hospital emergency departments as holding areas for some of the most vulnerable patients they serve.

It is no surprise to anyone working in a hospital that emergency departments have become the de facto dumping ground for patients in psychiatric distress.

An online survey released this week of 1,716 emergency physicians from across the nation paints a grim scene of psychiatric patients waiting long hours, and even days, for an inpatient psychiatric bed.

The results of the poll were presented this week at the American College of Emergency Physicians' annual meeting, ACEP16/Scientific Assembly in Las Vegas.

"Three-quarters of emergency physicians responding to our poll reported seeing patients every shift who required hospitalization for psychiatric treatment," ACEP President Rebecca Parker, MD, said in a conference call with journalists on Monday.

"The problem is that once the decision to admit is made, it can be nearly impossible to find an inpatient bed for these patients."

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders.


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