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Many ERs lack capacity to treat mental health patients

December 17, 2010
by News release
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Lafayette, La. — There are rising concerns that mental health services are becoming increasingly inadequate in hospital emergengy departments, according to a survey conducted by Schumacher Group, a national emergency department management firm.

The survey examined staffing and operational trends at over 600 hospital emergency departments across the United States and revealed what could be a significant gap in services for mental health patients. For example, 86 percent reported that their facilities are "sometimes or often" unable to transfer mental health patients to inpatient facilities in a timely manner.

Due to lack of beds at inpatient facilities, the survey reports that many mental health patients must be boarded at the ER for days at a time. Some administrators said their facilities have experienced boarding times for mental health patients of one week or more, while 60 percent said patient care at their facilities is compromised as a result of long mental health patient boarding times.

"The mental health problem in America is being swept under the rug for hospital emergency departments to deal with," notes William "Kip" Schumacher, MD, CEO of Schumacher Group. "We need a more proactive way to deal with this challenge."

For complete results of Schumacher Group's Emergency Department Challenges and Trends: 2010 Survey of Hospital Emergency Department Administrators, visit