Psych patients pack emergency rooms

January 16, 2015

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

The Orange County Register

Residents of California’s Orange County who need urgent psychiatric care are spending increasing amounts of time in hospital emergency rooms – sometimes several days – waiting for admission to psychiatric facilities. The population of the county has increased in recent years, while the number of psychiatric beds has dropped by more than half due to hospital consolidations, declining reimbursements from health insurance companies, and other factors. Steve Moreau, CEO of St. Joseph Hospital (one of the county’s designated psychiatric facilities) explained, “There is no psychiatric emergency system in place. The default is for the police or a family member to take [patients] to the nearest emergency room, and I can tell you that none of the ERs, including ours, is built or equipped to deal with psychiatric emergencies.” When ER patients in psychiatric distress don’t get the specialized care they need, the situation is hard on them and on emergency room staff. A psychiatric stabilization and triage unit in Santa Ana is planning to expand, as part of the county’s plan to try and address the problem.

Spark Extra! Learn about the full continuum of urgent care for behavioral health needs in the SPRC Spotlight on Crisis Services for Suicide Prevention.