Under the Dome

State seeks reductions in ER trips for mentally ill people

A state effort to cut the numbers of mentally ill patients seeking treatment in hospital emergency rooms is underway, with the first meeting of the Crisis Solutions Coalition held Monday.

The coalition started its work with many people in a room throwing out ideas, beginning what Dave Richard, director of the mental health division in the state Department of Health and Human Services, said would be a year-long process.

“No one in the department or the division of mental health believes this will be easy,” he said.

The coalition is tackling a problem that’s been vexing the state for years – people with mental illnesses in hospital emergency rooms waiting for hours and days for admission to psychiatric hospitals. Many wait so long they leave before they get a bed.

Progress will be measured by looking at the percentage of ER visits primarily for mental health or substance abuse diagnosis, wait times in ERs for inpatient care, and the numbers of people admitted to emergency departments who are re-admitted within 30 days.

The department has started moving on some projects. In a few months, it will have a website that tells people where to call for help.