Lack Of Psychiatric Hospital Beds Contributes To Georgia Emergency Department Overcrowding

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Psychiatric Hospital Beds

The backupof patients with mental illnesses in Georgia emergency departments stemsfrom a lack of available beds at state psychiatric hospitals, hospitalofficials said on Tuesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

The officials on Tuesday during a meeting of a state commission studyingpossible changes to Georgia'smental health system said when psychiatric beds are not immediately available,patients must wait in EDs until a transfer is possible. The Journal-Constitutionreports that some patients with acute mental illnesses must wait in EDs for upto three days before they are admitted to a state-run mental hospital. Inaddition, some psychiatric hospitals refuse to admit transferred patients,including children, and send them back to the EDs, officials told thecommission. Officials say the delays can worsen overall congestion and waittimes in EDs across the state.

According to a series of articles published earlier this year by the Journal-Constitution,Georgia'sseven state psychiatric hospitals face chronic problems with underfunding,understaffing and overcrowding. Although the state has contracted with privatefacilities to handle the overflow, EDs "are now the pinch point in amental health system that's not functioning very well," Matt Crouch -- CEOof Peachford Hospital, one of the facilities thatcontracted with the state -- said at the meeting.

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Kevin Bloye, a Georgia Hospital Association vice president, said, "Themental health problem only exacerbates" ED crowding caused by anincreasing number of uninsured state residents and aging patients who need moreservices. Steven Kiner, intake and assessment coordinator of psychiatricservices for Emory University Hospital and Emory Crawford Long Hospital, told the panel that "our bigconcern is that there's no course of treatment in the" ED. He added,"All we're doing is housing them in beds."

According to the Journal-Constitution, state psychiatricfacilities often operate at above full capacity, which is "far abovegenerally recommended levels," and a lack of community mental healthfacilities often keep mental health patients cycling through the system, thecommission was told (Judd/Miller, Atlanta Journal-Constitution,11/28).


Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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