Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Is treating severe mental illness less important than treating a heart attack?

Doctors at the Barnes- Jewish hospital in St. Louis meet periodically to analyze every patient who entered the hospital in previous months in the midst of a heart attack.

Since minutes and even seconds count when treating cardiac arrest, the doctors analyze their response time and what can be done to get life-saving treatment to people faster and more efficiently. Since the hospital began this analysis the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has increased its rating to one of the top 17 hospitals in the nation for treating heart attacks.

Efficient, effective treatment is certainly vital when someone is in cardiac crisis.

It’s also vital when someone is in psychiatric crisis.

Yet in St. Louis, and all across the country, people with severe mental illnesses are forced to wait not minutes or seconds, but weeks and months until they’re sicker or until danger is imminent until they can get treatment.

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