Massachusetts mother highlights problem of ’emergency department boarding’, need for psychiatric inpatient beds

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The call for help was impossible for a Massachusetts mother to ignore. “Our son came to us and said, ‘I’m not well. I need help. I feel like I’m going to hurt someone or hurt myself,'” he said. she adds. Christine, who asked 5 Investigations not to use her last name to protect the identity of her teenage son, brought her teenage son to the emergency room of a local hospital. the hospital told them there was no mental bed available anywhere in the state and sent their son home. not OK,” she said. “And 10 days later it exploded, and it was so much worse the second time around. And we had police involvement and trauma,” she said. room in another emergency room. “Horrible, horrible for our son. No air, no windows. “It’s inhumane.” “So here he is, day after day after day after day, we wait and we wait. 19 days, until we finally have a bed in an adult unit,” she said. The problem is known as emergency department boarding, where people in hospital emergency rooms wait for psychiatric inpatient beds. Figures from the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association show it’s an ongoing problem. At the end of March, 247 children were waiting in emergency departments. That number fell to 99 last week. A child therapist, who agreed to speak with 5 Investigates if we withheld her identity, said she “saw a complete disaster and a lack of resources that put children and families at risk every day.” “People are at their wit’s end,” said State Senator Cindy Friedman, who not only serves as chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Health Care Funding, but also has a child with serious mental illness. “What is the solution to solve this problem?” Mike Beaudet of 5 Investigates asked Friedman. “We still have to start treating mental illness exactly like we treat other medical conditions,” the Arlington Democrat responded. help recruit and retain mental health professionals. The Senate passed the Mental Health ABC Act 2.0, aimed at removing barriers to care. The law is now in the House. She would create an online portal to help find open beds and require all hospital emergency departments to have a behavioral health clinician on site to assess and stabilize people admitted to the emergency room with mental health issues. Nearly $200 million that is supposed to help solve the mental health crisis by creating a behavioral health trust fund is in legislative limbo. The legislature approved it, but the governor vetoed it last month, saying he supports the fund and its goals, but believes the way the legislature set it up creates a bureaucratic process that won’t solve crisis fast enough.” (Mental health care) is complicated and expensive, and there’s no easy way out,” Friedman said. and, ‘OK, you’re all better.'” Christine hopes people pay attention and push their elected officials to prioritize adding resources to help children like her son who are suffering. “If that any another illness, we received help. But it is a mental illness,” she said.

The call for help was impossible for a Massachusetts mother to ignore.

“Our son came to us and said, ‘I’m not well. I need help. I feel like I’m going to hurt someone or hurt myself'” , she said.

Christine, who asked 5 Investigates not to use her last name to protect the identity of her teenage son, brought her teenage son to the emergency room of a local hospital.

“He sat in that emergency room for six days without moving,” she said.

Then the hospital told them there was no mental bed available in the state and sent their son home.

“We told them, ‘No, you can’t release our son. He is not safe. He did not receive any treatment. He’s not doing well,'” she said.

“And 10 days later it exploded, and it was so much worse the second time around. And we had police involvement and trauma,” she said.

The cycle continued with their son back in isolation in a room in another emergency room.

“Horrible, awful for our son. No air, no windows. You can go to the bathroom and go back to your room. No walking. Can’t open your door,” she said. “It’s inhumane.”

“So here he is, day after day after day after day, we wait and wait. 19 days, until we finally get a bed in an adult unit,” she said.

WCVB

Christine, the mother of a teenager with mental illness, has experienced the mental health care crisis in Massachusetts firsthand.

The problem is known as emergency department boarding, where people in hospital emergency rooms wait for psychiatric inpatient beds. Figures from the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association show it’s an ongoing problem.

At the end of March, 247 children were waiting in the emergency room. That number fell to 99 last week.

A child therapist, who agreed to speak with 5 Investigates if we withheld her identity, said she “sees a complete disaster and lack of resources that puts children and families at risk every day.”

“People are at their wit’s end,” said State Senator Cindy Friedman, who not only serves as chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Health Care Funding, but also has a child with serious mental illness.

“What is the solution to solve this problem? 5 Investigators’ Mike Beaudet asked Friedman.

“We still have to start treating mental illness exactly like we treat other medical conditions,” the Arlington Democrat responded.

A shortage of adolescent psychiatric beds is helping create a 20x mental health crisis in Massachusetts.

WCVB

State Senator Cindy Friedman is chair of the Committee on Health Care Funding and has a child with serious mental illness.

Beacon Hill has already donated $10 million for teen beds and $120 million for loan repayment programs to help recruit and retain mental health professionals.

The Senate passed the Mental Health ABC Act 2.0, aimed at removing barriers to care. The law is now in the House.

It would create an online portal to help find open beds and would require all hospital emergency departments to have a behavioral health clinician on site to assess and stabilize people admitted to the emergency room with mental health issues.

Nearly $200 million supposed to help address the mental health crisis by creating a behavioral health trust fund is in legislative limbo. The legislature approved it, but the governor vetoed it last month, saying he supports the fund and its goals, but believes the way the legislature set it up creates a bureaucratic process that won’t solve not the crisis quickly enough.

“(Mental health care) is complicated and expensive, and there’s no easy way out,” Friedman said. “There’s not a pill you give someone and, ‘OK, everything is fine.'”

Christine hopes people pay attention and urge their elected officials to prioritize adding resources to help children like her son who are suffering.

“If it was another illness, we would get help. But it’s a mental illness,” she said.

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