Five Ways to Tackle the Mental Health Crisis Plaguing Emergency Departments

January 31, 2018 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​Solutions for tackling the mental health crisis in emergency departments (EDs) were the focus of a January 26, 2018, article in HealthAffairs. Quoting the nonprofit Trust for America's Health, the HealthAffairs article said 127,500 Americans died in 2015 by suicide or from drug- and alcohol-related causes. This translates to one person dying from a preventable cause every four minutes, the trust said. This crisis is hitting EDs particularly hard. One in eight visits to the EDs is now related to mental health or substance abuse, the article said, and the number is on the rise. The HealthAffairs article then laid out six issues discovered by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement that leave EDs unprepared to meet this need. These key reasons include “a cycle of fear among providers, patients, and families"; insufficient skills among ED personnel; and families being excluded from the current system of care in EDs. Further, programs to divert patients with mental health and substance abuse conditions from the ED yield an insufficient return on investment.

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