Children with mental health problems are spending more time in emergency rooms, according to a report from the Connecticut Health Investigative Team. In 2010, 40 children spent multiple nights in the emergency room for mental health issues. By the end of this year, C-HIT says that number is expected to rise to 500.
Sarah Eagan, Connecticut's child advocate, spoke on WNPR's Where We Live, saying this is largely crisis- driven. "We still have mental health system that is based on episodic care," she said. "We don't have someone that sticks with the family."
Critics of the system said the ER spike is due to both inadequate insurance coverage and a lack of residential placements. State Senator Beth Bye said Connecticut's Department of Children and Families is placing children with mental health issues in home settings versus congregate care. "As we move toward more family settings," she said, "we have to make sure we stage it appropriately. I think a lot of what we're seeing at the emergency room is because we haven't staged that move appropriately as a state."
Bye said that cuts to residential facilities and a shift to home care could create hurdles for children seeking mental health services after they leave the ER. "I think the pipeline is broken," she said. "Some of it is related to state policy. We are urging DCF to look carefully at the pipeline and make sure we don't close too many options for children and families."
DCF told C-HIT the spike in ER stays is not related to the closing of group homes, but instead mirrors national trends.