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Young adults still going to ER for mental illnesses

January 20, 2016
by Julia Brown, Associate Editor
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Young adults are more likely to visit the emergency room (ER) for mental illnesses, even with expanded insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to a recent study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. While overall ED visits among young adults ages 19 to 25 decreased by 0.5 percent after ACA implementation, mental illness visits increased by 2.6 percent.

"Increased health insurance coverage reduced ER visits by young people for conditions that can be treated in office-based settings, but the lack of mental health resources continues to bring these patients to the ER in large numbers," said study author Renee Hsia, MD, of the University of California San Francisco in a press statement. "Significant barriers to care for mental health issues persist, leaving these patients little choice but to seek care in the only place they know they can get it: the ER."

Researchers conducted a before and after study of patient visits to emergency departments in California, Florida and New York to determine whether the ACA had an impact. Patients age 19 to 25 were compared to patients age 26 to 31 over the same time periods (September 2009 through August 2010 versus January through December 2011).