Improving Pennsylvania’s Behavioral Health Treatment Options

Picture this: You or someone you love is experiencing a behavioral health crisis. Your No. 1 focus is finding effective treatment as soon as possible. For many, the first resource that comes to mind in this scenario is the nearest hospital ER (also called an emergency department, or ED).

When you arrive at the ER, you are waiting alongside many other patients facing equally urgent health issues. You are assessed and given initial treatment to stabilize and keep you safe and comfortable. But you learn that the longer-term treatment you need is not readily available, and your journey to feeling better is delayed for hours or even days.

As with any illness or injury, ERs are for assessment and stabilization. Patients and families—as well as ER doctors, nurses, and other staff—have been frustrated by situations where patients are stuck in holding patterns, waiting for the right kind of behavioral health treatment facilities and services to become available.

To fully understand and continue to address the barriers to behavioral health treatment for Pennsylvanians, state Representative James Struzzi is proposing a resolution directing the Joint State Government Commission to study:

  • The patient care impact of delayed emergency department discharge of patients with behavioral health diagnoses
  • The impact on emergency department operations and the financial impact of delayed emergency department discharge of patients with behavioral health diagnoses
  • The cause of delayed emergency department discharge of patients with behavioral health diagnoses and why these delays often last longer than timely care calls for

This study would be the first step in the creation of important health care policies that impact our families, friends, and neighbors. By enhancing the process by which Pennsylvanians receive valuable behavioral health treatment, we can improve health outcomes, encourage those who need help to seek it, and ensure that those experiencing a behavioral health crisis do not feel alone.