Maryland Emergency Rooms Overpacked As Psychiatric Care Struggle To Keep Up With The Growing Mental Health Crises Among Kids and Teenagers

A laptop and coffee sit next to an occupied hospital bed. Photo by amir via Flickr.

What’s happening?

Beds in Maryland’s psychiatric facilities are almost always full, and for younger patients with more severe conditions, the wait to receive crucial care is even longer, William Wan reports for The Washington Post. 

Though it’s a problem occurring all over the country, Maryland emergency rooms hold the longest average wait times for mental health patients with many spending days, or even weeks, in emergency rooms before a bed opens. 

What factors contributed to this deficit in psychiatric care?

Nationally, mental health crises among kids and teenagers began to increase before the covid-19 pandemic, but now, issues such as extreme depression and suicide have reached an all-time high. But psychiatric hospitals and wards in Maryland can’t keep up with the rising demand, and though politicians have promised to tackle the issue, it has only gotten worse.

Over the last decade in Maryland, more than 10% of children 12 and younger with psychiatric issues waited in the ER for more than one day, up from only 1% in 2010. Teens ages 13 to 17 experienced a similar increase—from 3% in 2010 to over 13% in 2020. 

This includes Zachary Chafos, an autistic teenager who waited 28 days in the ER for a psychiatric bed, after his deteriorating mental health caused him to physically assault members of his family. 

“They were afraid to walk into his room, afraid to take his vitals,” said his father Tim Chafos. “ERs just aren’t made to hold an autistic kid for weeks on end.”

Anything else I should know? 

Psychiatric facilities in other states are also feeling the heightened demand, especially in Colorado, where officials declared a state of emergency last year as its hospitals became overwhelmed with psychiatric patients. 

You can read more here.

Editorial Disclaimer: Reporting for this story was provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and we thank them for their support. However, the findings and conclusions presented in this article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Foundation.

7,159 thoughts on “Maryland Emergency Rooms Overpacked As Psychiatric Care Struggle To Keep Up With The Growing Mental Health Crises Among Kids and Teenagers”

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