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Bills Address Long Waits for Behavioral Health Patients
Date:6/25/2009

conducted in August and September 2008, asked hospitals to document each interval in which a behavioral health patient waited 12 hours in the ED. In total, 36 hospitals reported more than 1,400 episodes in which patients waited at least 12 hours for the behavioral health services they needed. Detailed findings revealed:

  • About 700 of the documented occurrences were patients waiting between 12 and 24 hours.
  • About one third -- 470 cases -- were waits of 24 to 48 hours.
  • Close to 70 patients waited 48 to 60 hours.
  • Nearly 100 patients waited from 60 to 108 hours.
  • And 10 patients spent 108 to 156 hours in the emergency department waiting for the specialized care they needed.

Snapshot checks of hospitals since the initial survey have revealed continued gridlock for behavioral health patients awaiting transfer.

Assemblyman Cryan's package includes three measures to address the crisis: A-3582 would require the state Division of Mental Health Services to develop procedures to enable hospitals to promptly transfer emergency department patients with mental illness to an appropriate treatment setting. A-3583 would require the Department of Human Services to establish standardized admission protocols and medical clearance criteria for admission to state or county psychiatric hospitals or short-term care facilities. And A-3584 would require DMHS to identify available mental health services and perform a statewide needs assessment.

"Assemblyman Cryan has taken the lead in finding relief for these vulnerable patients and for all New Jerseyans who count on the state's increasingly busy emergency departments," said Ryan.

On behalf of the state's emergency physicians, Dr. Bonnano added his appreciation for the Assemblyman's efforts.

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SOURCE New Jersey Hospital Association
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
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