Mental health closings will hurt emergency departments - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Mental health closings will hurt emergency departments

By Robin Jedlicka - bio | email

January 9, 2009

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - Emergency rooms across the country are over crowded.  Now, with state considering a plan to shut down multiple mental health facilities, there is fear that a growing influx of patients will become unmanageable.

Jane Osborn, a State Board Member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, says, "It's going to be a disaster for people who need services."

More patients with mental health needs will be forced to turn to hospitals. "The system is not set up for people to stay in a public hospital for critical mental health treatment. That's a way-station on the way to what was the state system," Osborn adds. 

The budget cuts couldn't have come at a worse time.  At stressful times like these, when we have a depressed economy, mental health facilities see a greater need than usual. 

South Georgia Medical Center's ER Administrative Director, Randy Smith, says,  "When you factor in that you're dealing with behavioral health issues and patients that are in extreme crisis, and the amount of time and energy and staff it takes to maintain that, you're looking at an even higher percentage of emergency department beds being occupied."

Mental health care workers hope the community will express their concern to state leaders about the need for mental health facilities.

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