Thursday, April 06, 2006

Untreated mental illnesses compromise ALL emergency room patients

The general public has a vested interest in supporting psychiatric treatment mechanisms that stop the revolving door for people with severe mental illnesses.

A recent survey in Maryland confirms earlier reports that untreated mental illnesses compromise care for all patients needing emergency room care.

Maryland hospitals said these numbers are increasing, and 63 percent report increasing wait times for psychiatric patients — nearly double the wait time for other patients. The two major reasons for the long waits are a lack of available state mental health beds and outpatient/community resources for uninsured psychiatric patients.

According to a survey reported in 2004, more than 60 percent of emergency department physicians reported seeing an increase in patients presenting with psychiatric emergencies in the past 6-12 months. Emergency physicians attributed the rise in psychiatric patients to increasing state health care budget cutbacks and the decreasing number of psychiatric beds.

These increases have negative effects for all patients seeking emergency room care: reducing the availability of beds in the emergency department (96%), reducing the availability of emergency staff for other patients (91%), resulting in patient frustration (89%), resulting in longer waits for patients in the waiting room (85%) and increasing the amount of time the hospital diverts ambulances to other hospitals (31%).

Untreated mental illnesses affect everyone.

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