Chicago Tribune

On the front lines of mental health care, emergency rooms are adapting

CHICAGO - Patients seeking mental health care, sitting in emergency rooms for hours as clinical staff conduct physical tests unrelated to their problem. Case managers making scores of phone calls just to find one spot in an in-patient program.

This scenario encountered by mental health patients in their local emergency rooms is less than ideal, experts say, and is even more of a problem as hospitals see an influx of mental health patients, driven by scarce local resources for treatment and a national shortage of psychiatrists.

Noticing a trend of more psychiatric patients coming through emergency room doors, area hospitals have started to revamp how they treat mental health in emergency departments.

Staff members working in one Chicago area hospital system - Amita Health - are piloting a program at four of its emergency

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