The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

Mentally ill flood ER as states cut services

Cutting back on funding for mental health services does not make the problem go away.  This is a societal problem of such magnitude that we need to learn to deal with it and live with it, not turn our backs and hope it goes away.  Today, our mentally ill are living on our streets, contributing to our high crime, and the increase in violence in general.  The mentally ill are vulnerable and some in our society seek out the vulnerable to do them harm.  While it is true that some mentally ill people are dangerous, the majority are simply targets for anyone or anything that wants to take advantage of them.  These people deserve our protection from predators, don’t they?

As I have posted over and over again, if you take away the services available to stabilize the mentally ill, you will increase the use of ER and police tenfold.  These are two areas of service that are already overburdened and in trouble.  Now, as you can see in the article below, the crushing feeling is now beginning to be noticed.

Here’s an article from Reuters, and I hope you will click over and read the article fully, not just what I posted below.  This is just the beginning.  We definitely need a better solution to this problem.


By Julie Steenhuysen and Jilian Mincer | Reuters – 21 hrs ago


ER (TV series)

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HICAGO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – On a recent shift at a Chicago emergency department, Dr. William Sullivan treated a newly homeless patient who was threatening to kill himself.

“He had been homeless for about two weeks. He hadn’t showered or eaten a lot. He asked if we had a meal tray,” said Sullivan, a physician at the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago and a past president of the Illinois College of Emergency Physicians.

Sullivan said the man kept repeating that he wanted to kill himself. “It seemed almost as if he was interested in being admitted.”

Across the country, doctors like Sullivan are facing a spike in psychiatric emergencies – attempted suicide, severe depression, psychosis – as states slash mental health services and the country’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression takes its toll.

This trend is taxing emergency rooms already overburdened by uninsured patients who wait until ailments become acute before seeking treatment.

“These are people without a previous psychiatric history who are coming in and telling us they’ve lost their jobs, they’ve lost sometimes their homes, they can’t provide for their families, and they are becoming severely depressed,” said Dr. Felicia Smith, director of the acute psychiatric service at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Visits to the hospital’s psychiatric emergency department have climbed 20 percent in the past three years.

“We’ve seen actually more very serious suicide attempts in that population than we had in the past as well,” she said.

Compounding the problem are patients with chronic mental illness who have been hurt by a squeeze on mental health services and find themselves with nowhere to go.

On top of that, doctors are seeing some cases where the patient’s most critical need is a warm bed.

“The more I see these patients, the more I realize that if it’s sleeting and raining outside, the emergency room is the only place they have,” said Dr. R. Corey Waller, director of the Spectrum Health Medical Group Center for Integrative Medicine in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Government agencies such as the National Institutes of Mental Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration could not provide fresh data on use of psychiatric services in recent years.

But doctors from more than a dozen hospitals nationwide, mental health advocacy groups and state-funded agencies told Reuters they are all seeing a marked increase in psychiatric emergencies.


The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), an organization of state mental health directors, estimates that in the last three years states have cut $3.4 billion in … [read more]


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December 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment