KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

USA Today: Mental Health System Is ‘In Shambles’

The failure to provide treatment has led to crowded emergency rooms and jails and thousands of untreated people living on the streets, the newspaper reports. Other stories look at a South Carolina "telepsychiatry" program designed to provide rural patients with psychiatric help and a program in Missouri that partners police with mental health counselors.

USA Today: Cost Of Not Caring: Stigma Set In Stone
Stigma against the mentally ill is so powerful that it's been codified for 50 years into federal law, and few outside the mental health system even realize it. This systemic discrimination, embedded in Medicaid and Medicare laws, has accelerated the emptying of state psychiatric hospitals, leaving many of the sickest and most vulnerable patients with nowhere to turn. ... The failure to provide treatment and supportive services to people with mental illness – both in the community and in hospitals – has overburdened emergency rooms, crowded state and local jails and left untreated patients to fend for themselves on city streets ...(Szabo, 6/25).

Stateline: Getting Rural Patients Psychiatric Help Fast
When emergency room patients are deemed "a danger to themselves or others," every state requires hospitals to hold them until a psychiatrist conducts a face-to-face evaluation to decide whether it is safe to let them leave. In rural hospitals across the country, it can take days for a psychiatrist to show up and perform the exam. Five years ago, rural hospitals in South Carolina illustrated the problem. On a typical morning, more than 60 people were waiting in the state’s emergency rooms for psychiatric exams so they could either be discharged or admitted for treatment. Today the scene is quite different, thanks to a "telepsychiatry" program that allows psychiatrists to examine South Carolina patients through videoconferencing, reducing the average wait time from four days to less than 10 hours (Vestal, 6/26).

St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  Missouri Program Partners Police With Counselors To Help Mentally Ill
The woman was scared, convinced someone was breaking into her Maryland Heights apartment. She locked herself inside her bathroom. ... Maryland Heights officers had been there before. They checked the apartment for her — nobody was there. Instead of calming her down and leaving, as they had done many times before, they called their community mental health liaison, Danielle Conrey, who arrived within 15 minutes. The program addresses a big gap in encounters between police and the mentally ill: If someone police encountered was a danger to themselves or others, police would take them to a hospital. If the person was not a danger, like the woman who suspected prowlers were inside her home, there wasn’t much police could do (Schremp Hahn, 6/26).

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