Hospitals Serve as Safety Net for Behavioral Health Patients

December 26, 2019 By: Bob Atlas, President & CEO
As hospitals across the country face criticism for long emergency department wait times, the dearth of community-based behavioral health resources must be flagged as a significant cause. Many of your hospitals contend with behavioral health patients who simply have nowhere else to go—both at onset of an episode and when ready for discharge—due to lack of capacity in more appropriate care settings.
As we make the case for improved processes and more placement options for behavioral health services, we regularly look for actionable data.
With that in mind, MHA worked with Wilder Research to study behavioral health patient delays in the state’s EDs . It found 42% of behavioral health ED patients experienced a delay in discharge or transfer. These patients were delayed for 1,676 days total—an average of 20 hours per patient. Delays accounted for 48% of the time those patients spent in ED.
Of interest, three of the top five causes for a delay were related to actions—or inactions—of the prospective receiving “agency” or placement site.
To help behavioral health patients get the right care in the right place, MHA will use these findings during the upcoming Maryland General Assembly session. We will put forth a bill to allow police to take emergency petition patients directly to crisis centers for evaluation rather than solely to EDs.
This study is just the latest example of how MHA is leveraging data to advocate for policies that help you better address operational challenges and give the best care possible to your communities.