Rex Healthcare makes a welcome change in mental health care in the ER

Many of those who have to go to Rex Healthcare’s Emergency Department in Raleigh have received life-saving care, but they’ve also seen one of the pressures facing all hospitals: an increasing number of mentally ill people who go to emergency rooms for treatment. That puts a burden on doctors and nurses trying to treat the life-threatening issues of other patients injured in accidents or suffering acute problems such as heart attacks. It also adds to the stress of everyone in the emergency area.

An anonymous grant of $2.5 million now will enable Rex (part of UNC Healthcare) to build a separate area for patients needing help with mental health problems who come to the ER. The area will have eight private rooms and a common dayroom. That’s going to make care more accessible for them and may ease some of the burden on the main Emergency Department.

More hospitals around the country are feeling the crunch of the increased needs of those in mental distress. Jails and prisons are feeling it, too — a huge percentage of inmates are suffering from mental illness and would be better off in health care facilities, but there are not enough beds to go around.

Rex isn’t going to solve the crisis of so many people in need with this facility, but it’s an important step. It recognizes the need to help such people in a more sedate environment, where they will able to have the conversations and the care they need to emerge from their immediate problems and begin long-term treatment.