Men­tal pa­tients strain ERs

Fail­ure of Ga. men­tal health hos­pi­tals cre­ates back­log

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As the re­sult of the cri­sis in the state’s psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tals, New­ton Med­i­cal Cen­ter’s emer­gency room has be­come very crowded of late as men­tal health pa­tients wait for place­ment in At­lanta.

On a re­cent Thurs­day night, 13 men­tal health pa­tients were in the ER at the same time wait­ing for place­ment at the Ge­or­gia Re­gional Hospi­tal at At­lanta, the state men­tal health hospi­tal where pa­tients from metro At­lanta are typ­i­cally sent if they do not have the in­sur­ance to pay for a pri­vate care fa­cil­ity.

“This is a new phe­nom­e­non for our emer­gency depart­ment and it re­quires tak­ing up beds for th­ese men­tal health pa­tients,” said Bar­bara Valen­tine, NMC as­sis­tant ad­min­is­tra­tor in charge of pa­tient care ser­vices.

Valen­tine said a back­log in the num­ber of men­tal health pa­tients through­out the At­lanta area wait­ing for beds to be­come avail­able at GRH has re­sulted in NMC hav­ing to hold men­tal health pa­tients much longer than they would nor­mally.

“We are cer­tainly not a men­tal health fa­cil­ity. We do not have the re­sources,” Valen­tine said. “We are very in­ter­ested in mak­ing sure that their care is safe but the sooner we can get them out of here, the bet­ter it is for that pa­tient.”

The over­flow­ing of NMC’s emer­gency depart­ment has been spurred by the much pub­li­cized fail­ure of the state’s men­tal health hos­pi­tals, which are now be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment for a large num­ber of pa­tient deaths over the years that were first brought to light

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