Recently The Boston Globe published an article describing the findings of a research study conducted across 10 hospitals in Massachusetts. Their conclusion: adults with behavioral health conditions wait anywhere between 16 and 21 hours for admission when seeking treatment through the Emergency Department, despite the fact that the average admission wait time for most other physical conditions is only four hours.
“The study, published online in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, is part of a growing body of evidence revealing deep inequalities in care for patients with medical illness when compared with those with mental health problems. This is particularly true of mentally ill patients who arrive in the emergency room in crisis due to a psychotic episode or suicidal urges and require hospital-level care.
The study did not explore the reasons for these differences, but doctors say the tight supply of psychiatric beds contributes to the problem, as do restrictions put in place by insurance companies on mental health care.” Liz Kowalczyk, Boston Globe (@)
This is all in addition to a report released by NAMI late last year outlining the failures of health coverage providers to live up to parity standards set by local and national legislation. According to NAMI, “Despite the federal parity law, the promise of parity remains elusive. Consumers continue to face significant challenges finding a provider, getting an appointment and paying the bill for mental health care compared to other types of specialty medical care.” “For many Americans, finding quality, affordable mental health care is like navigating an obstacle course. High costs, difficulty finding providers and attempting to understand insurance documents can make accessing mental health care difficult for many, and impossible for some.”
When you also consider that the “median reduction in life expectancy among those with mental illness [is] 10.1 years” it becomes apparent that more needs to be done to help people suffering from behavioral health conditions get the treatment they need when they need it.