LAS VEGAS – Dwindling mental health resources are turning the nation's emergency departments (EDs) into a "dumping ground" for psychiatric emergencies, including those involving children.
Results of a poll of more than 1700 emergency physicians conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) reveals that almost one quarter of ED physicians (21%) reported they have psychiatric patients waiting in the ED for 2 to 5 days for in-patient beds.
In addition, more than half (52%) of respondents reported that the mental health system in their communities had worsened during the past year.
These "extremely troubling" findings reflect the experience of Rebecca Parker, MD, an emergency physician at West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park, Illinois, who is the incoming president of the ACEP.
"Psychiatric patients wait in the emergency department for hours and even days for a bed, which delays the psychiatric care they so desperately need. It also leads to delays in care and diminished resources for other emergency patients. The emergency department has become the dumping ground for these vulnerable patients who have been abandoned by every other part of the healthcare system," Dr Parker said in a press release.