The ER wait

A colleague told me of a visit to a Twin Cities hospital ER last weekend, which featured a waiting room full of people and little hope that a physical ailment would get treated quickly. Most of the people waiting for help, she said, were there for mental health issues.

Now, a new study out this week confirms that the growing number of ER visits for children is chiefly because of mental health woes.

“These patients are often in the emergency room for longer than many other patients, and need the most consultations,” Dr. Zachary Pittsenbarger, of Chidren’s Hospital Boston, tells “We need to find out why they are there, and whether they could be better served in an outpatient clinic.”

Pittsenbarger is presenting his findings at a conference in Boston today.

He says the biggest likely problem for increased ER visits is parents can’t find outpatient services for their children with mental health needs, a common complaint when MPR News took a look at Minnesota’s mental health system more than seven years ago.

In one case we profiled then, a teenager had to wait three months for help, and that’s not at all uncommon in this and many other states.

There is also, of course, the matter of fewer people with health insurance who have no other place to turn besides the ER, and a shorter, but still torturous, wait.

Comments are closed.