In January 2017, the ACEP Board of Directors approved a clinical policy developed by the ACEP Clinical Policies Committee on critical issues in the diagnosis and management of adult psychiatric patients presenting to the emergency department. This policy was published in the April issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine, can be found on the ACEP website, and has been accepted for inclusion in the National Guideline Clearinghouse.
While the number of mental health-related visits to emergency departments has increased steadily, the number of inpatient psychiatric beds has decreased. Substantial declines in mental health resources have additionally burdened emergency departments with increasing numbers of patients with mental health issues. The “boarding” process for mental health patients in emergency departments nationwide averages seven to 11 hours and often takes more than 24 hours when patients require transfer to an outside facility. New systems and resources need to be made available to better serve mental health patients.