Mentally ill wait days in Georgia EDs

It's a solution that doesn't work well for anybody. In Georgia, patients with acute mental illness are waiting up to three days in hospital emergency departments before being admitted to state mental hospitals. The patients are uncomfortable, and the hospital's scarce ED resources are diverted to patients that aren't its primary focus. However, hospitals have little choice but to maintain these patients, as they can't turn them loose until a transfer can be made. Meanwhile, mentally-ill patients are sometimes doing damage while they wait, as in the case of one Georgia man who set a fire in a room in one hospital. And of course, the patients are getting no treatment of substance while they're warehoused in ED beds.

The backup is happening because there's a significant lack of beds available in the state's psychiatric facilities, despite the fact that the state has contracted with private facilities to handle overflow from the state facilities. According to hospital officials, state hospitals are so stressed that they're even turning away patients sent over to their facilities by med/surg hospitals. At a recent state hearing, advocates suggested that the state hospitals are going to be overwhelmed by cases until community mental health services are improved.

To learn more about this problem:
- read this Atlanta Journal-Constitution article

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