More than 11 million Americans have a severe mental illness. Yet millions go without treatment, not only because they lack insurance, but also because of a broken mental health system.
As emergency nurses, we see first-hand the effects that a broken mental health care system has on our nation. Every day, people with behavioral health issues seek help, but have nowhere to turn except their local hospital’s emergency department. These patients not only utilize more resources than other patients, they also are forced to wait, sometimes for days, until a bed in an inpatient facility becomes available.
We must start to fix our broken mental health system by focusing programs and resources on the psychiatric care for patients and families most in need of services. We must increase the availability of inpatient psychiatric beds, expand the mental health workforce, and integrate between physical and mental health care providers.
With reforms such as these, we can start to repair our mental health care system and help many individuals before they reach a crisis point and require emergency care.