Individuals facing a mental health crisis are more likely to seek help through the hospital emergency room than in the past and often languish there for hours or days longer than patients with a physical malady, new studies show. And the problem is growing worse.
Researchers agree that, whether looking at New Jersey or at national trends, the problem reflects the longtime need for far greater investment in behavioral health services. The current situation results in suboptimal treatment for patients dealing with a psychotic break and eats away at resources that could be used to treat others, they said.
The findings are based in part on a, scheduled to be released today. It shows emergency room visits are rising — and nearly half of the increase between 2014 and 2015 involved patients with mental health or substance use disorder diagnoses. While the total number of emergency room visits in the Garden State increased less than 4 percent in that year, ER use by patients with serious behavioral health issues jumped more than 10 percent.