Tracking system may help mental health patients
The dwindling availability of psychiatric services is invisible until it results in tragedy - often violence, as demonstrated locally and nationally in recent years.
At its annual House of Delegates meeting recently in Hershey, the Pennsylvania Medical Society endorsed a partial remedy that should be embraced by state and local governments.
There are too few psychiatric beds available in hospitals nationwide, only about 17 per 100,000 people for those who need treatment. That is one major reason that there are more mentally ill people in prison than in hospitals.
According to the medical society, the problem also is apparent at hospital emergency rooms, where mental health patients with nowhere else to go wait hours or days for treatment.
The society, in conjunction with the state chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians and the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society, proposed developing voluntary shared tracking systems for available psychiatric beds, region by region across the state.
Although such a system would not resolve the overall problem, it would give emergency room at least the chance to find appropriate, timely treatment for mental health patients.
The state Department of Health and the Hospital and Healthsystem Association, along with police agencies, should work with the society to develop the needed networks.