Patients fill emergency rooms due to lack of mental health services

Patients who need mental and behavioral health care services fill emergency rooms in Pennsylvania and there is nowhere to send hospitals.

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania – The impact of the pandemic on mental health has put the focus back on the lack of treatment options. Statewide and beyond there is a mental health crisis.

Patients who need behavioral health care services fill emergency rooms in Pennsylvania and there is nowhere to send hospitals.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Heather Tyler, vice president of state legislative advocacy at Association of Hospitals and Health System of Pennsylvania.

Doctors across the state have seen a significant increase in the number of people requiring emergency-level services, crisis-level services, and posthospital care.

However, there is an acute shortage of mental health care providers and treatment programs in the Commonwealth. The waiting period to enter the facility never ends for some families.

“The waiting list can be up to 1,000 people,” Tyler added. “What is happening is that as the crisis worsens, the same things we are all experiencing — inflation, high wages, supply chain issues — services are harder to provide. Counties are under increasing pressure and they cannot provide community support, home support, or crisis support.”

FOX43 reveals that patients stay in emergency departments for days, sometimes weeks, as doctors frantically search for treatment options. Doctors at Penn Medicine Lancaster Public Health had to refer patients to facilities as far away as Philadelphia for treatment.

Tyler said one doctor in Pennsylvania tried to contact 400 treatment facilities to find the right place for a young child in need of mental health services.

With no increase in government funding in more than a decade, doctors are watching the state’s mental health care system crumble before their eyes.

“We really need to do a better job as a system to create more opportunities for individuals with behavioral health needs to receive a less restrictive level of care,” said Tracy Lavalias, executive director of behavioral health at Penn Medicine Lancaster Public Health.

In February 2021, 39.8% of adults in Pennsylvania reported symptoms of anxiety or depression and 25.7% were unable to obtain needed counseling or treatment, according to the Data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Recent HAP Research It reveals that 1 out of every 6 children Those ages 6 to 17 with a mental health disorder and fewer than 47 percent of adults with a mental illness receive treatment.

Doctors worry about the risks people pose to themselves and others if they are in the midst of a crisis and unable to get the help they need.

“As part of the disease, people may feel they don’t want to go on living or may do something to hurt themselves or they may get out of control with their behavior and inadvertently hurt someone else,” said Dr. Erica Saunders. He works in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Penn State Health.

Several stakeholders, including hospitals, are calling on lawmakers to increase state funding for county mental health programs by $28 million, in addition to $13 million in county mental health funding to help emergency departments.

There is also a push to pass House Bell 1644which creates complex care transition teams to help when inpatients or psychotherapy in residence or other settings are unable to release patients.

“Now is the time for policy makers to invest more in counties and provide them with mental health funding to provide the programs that all Pennsylvania families need,” Tyler said.

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