Clinics Help Keep People with Serious Mental Illness Out of ER

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Updated 4:07 AM ET, Fri November 18, 2016

This article has been re-shared from it’s original source, CNN.com.

 

San Antonio Yolanda Solar has battled a life-threatening disease for more than three decades.

The disease nearly killed her last summer, and Solar, a 73-year-old grandmother, was rushed to the hospital by ambulance.
When Solar was discharged one week later, she received bad news: She would have to wait until March to see a doctor.
Waiting seven months for treatment would be unthinkable if Solar had cancer or heart disease. But Solar suffers from severe depression, and waiting that long for help is typical — and potentially dangerous.
Although San Antonio has earned widespread praise for its success in keeping people with mental illness out of jail, patients here routinely wait months to see psychiatrists, who are in short supply across the country. The number of available psychiatrists who specialize in the care of the elderly or children is even smaller.
Without routine medical care, patients like Solar, who tried to kill herself in August with an overdose of pills, can quickly deteriorate. Many return to the emergency room. Some don’t survive.
But Solar was luckier than most.
Emergency room staff made an appointment for her at a transitional care clinic at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, which annually treats up to 1,500 patients with serious mental illness until they can find regular care. The clinic helps the mentally ill avoid winding up in the ER, where round-the-clock activity and confusion is ill-suited to the needs of patients who are already agitated, suicidal or psychotic.
Communities like San Antonio are increasingly focused on reducing emergency room use by people with mental illness. In addition to being chaotic, emergency rooms are among the most expensive places in the health system to get urgent care.
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