Emergency rooms across the nation are facing a high amount of patients who are coming there in order to have their mental health needs taken care of. This is difficult, if not impossible, for ER doctors to provide within the ER itself. The main problem is that people lack health insurance, and see the ER as the only place to get the care that they need.
One of the biggest problems faced by Americans comes from their inability to afford health insurance coverage. Unfortunately, in this country, those who lack health insurance become completely unable to pay for the health care that they need. This leads people to put off having treatment until their health issue becomes extremely severe, and can no longer be ignored. That is when people head to the nearest emergency room.
The result of this trend is that emergency rooms, all across the nation, are overburdened by uninsured patients who are coming in to have serious health issues taken care of. Many of these issues could have been treated, and cured, if only that person was able to afford to see a doctor before things got so severe.
Another group of uninsured people who are coming to the ER for help are people who have a mental illness. Some of these people have lost their jobs, (and therefore their health insurance), are unemployed, and have lost their homes. They cannot provide what their families need. These people are severely depressed, and they are turning to the nurses at the ER because they don’t have any other resource to turn to.
According to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASHMHPD), there has been a $3.4 billion dollar cut in state mental health services in the past three years. This has happened at a time when an additional 400,000 people have been seeking those services. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, California has cut $587 million in state-funded mental health services in the past two years.
Since the state programs for mental health are disappearing, the only way for a person to get mental health care is if that person can pay for it themselves. Either that person has a health insurance plan that covers treatment for mental illness, or, that person happens to be incredibly wealthy. The people who are in the ER trying to get mental health care issues treated are mostly uninsured.
Emergency rooms are not designed to provide treatment for people who have a mental illness. They are set up to help people who have become severely injured, who are having a heart attack, or who have other physical health problems. ER doctors cannot diagnose a mental illness, cannot adjust a person’s prescription medication for that illness, and cannot provide the therapy that a psychiatrist can.
Image by Taber Andrew Bain on Flickr