For years, state support for mental health resources has been on the decline and services for psychiatric patients in the United States are simply inadequate. As a result of this diminishing support, psychiatric patients are more and more often turning to emergency departments for their acute care needs. Unfortunately, it takes three times as long to find an inpatient bed for a psychiatric patient rather than a medical patient after the decision to admit has been made. These psychiatric patients require more physician, nurse and hospital resources than other patients and, thus, diminish our ability to evaluate and treat other medical patients who are awaiting emergency care services.
The prevalence of mental illness in this country, combined with a lack of resources to care for these individuals in the most appropriate setting, is a national crisis. Systemic changes are needed in the way individuals with mental illness are cared for in this country.