Compared with physically ill patients, people with mental health conditions rely more on the emergency department for treatment.  Recent findings from the American College of Emergency Physicians, as reported by NPR, highlight what can happen when patients can’t find good outpatient treatment for mental health problems.  The evidence underscores that when psychiatric patients arrive at the ER in a crisis, there is often no good place where they can continue treatment, once the immediate issue has been addressed.

Young patients are less likely to get reliable care after they are discharged from the ER. Whether they need regular follow-up with a psychiatrist, or a transfer to specialized facility, the resources often aren’t in place.  They’ll land in a pediatric or family practice where most primary care doctors haven’t been trained “to navigate the ins and outs of psychotropic meds.” The dearth of psychiatrists who specialize in treating young people means many young patients simply don’t get the mental health treatment they need. Too often, the teen depression that went undiagnosed in the community shows up in the ER as a suicide attempt.

 

 

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