Should hospitals bear more responsibility for mentally ill?

With more and more stories of mental health patients injuring and killing healthcare workers across the country--most recently in Pennsylvania--hospitals and health systems need to focus more on treating mental illness, author Caroline Hamilton writes in Security Info Watch.

Earlier this week Richard Plotts, 49, who had a history of psychiatric problems and a criminal record, including illegal possession of firearms and drug violations, shot and killed his mental health caseworker at the Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital campus in Yeadon, Pennsylvania.

None of the recent incidents involved a person who lost a job or had a poor performance review. Rather, Hamilton says all the perpetrators were severely mentally ill, and the lack of support for those individuals leaves law enforcement to deal with the depressed, paranoid and sometimes violent individuals.

"…it seems like mental health problems are walled off by society, treated ineffectively, and violent tendencies … are largely ignored and unreported by the clinicians treating them," Hamilton writes.

She cites an article by Graham C.L. Davey, Ph.D., who says healthcare professionals are often the first point of contact for people suffering from mental health issues, but they are poorly trained to identify psychological problems in their patients. And as doctors' time with patients grows shorter and shorter, prescribing medication becomes an easy option.  

Especially in a budget-strained financial setting, increasing the number of hospital seclusion rooms, the number of beds available for psychiatric patients and the security and law enforcement professionals to help deal with mentally ill patients can be a drastic expense for hospitals, Hamilton writes. However, as hospital violence increases, healthcare facilities must focus on sustainable treatment for patients, she says.

Many organizations take steps to integrate mental health into collaborative care models to improve care. The Good Care Collaborative in New Jersey aims to close the loop for high-risk patients in the state by integrating physical, behavioral, and addiction treatments and services. In Oregon, Mosaic Medical Clinic became part of of a state pilot that puts psychologists on staff in doctor's offices, FiercePracticeManagement reported.

To learn more:
- here's the Security InfoWatch article
- check out the Davey's article in Psychology Today