Mentally Ill Languish in Hospital Emergency Rooms

As he lay on a gurney in the emergency department of Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, Erik grew increasingly upset. He had called the police to report a theft from his apartment, but wound up being taken to the hospital. The ER staff quickly determined that Erik, 40, who has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and PTSD, needed urgent psychiatric care, but there wasn’t much they could do. Like many hospitals, Memorial doesn’t have a psychiatric unit, and all of the psychiatric units in the nearby facilities were full. Erik, a bright, articulate and devoutly religious man, had to wait nearly two days on a gurney in the ER before he could be transferred. Mentally ill patients often languish in hospital emergency rooms for several days, sometimes longer, before they can be moved to a psychiatric unit or hospital. At most, they get drugs but little counseling, and the environment is often harsh.

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