And “from 2014 to 2015, emergency room visits rose 3.8 percent overall, but visits from people with a mental health diagnosis or a substance abuse problem increased by 10 percent.”
The study does not specifically reference individuals who are homeless frequently relying on emergency rooms for their medical and mental health care. But it certainly does make the case for the need to reduce high rates of emergency room utilization in New Jersey’s hospitals.
“Hospital emergency room visits rose by 7 percent over the last five years in New Jersey, with two-thirds of patients seeking treatment for a mental illness or an addiction, according to a statewide hospital group,” reports NJ Advance Media.
It is the hope of the Hospital Association that the New Jersey legislature and other policy makers will address the shortage of short-term mental health treatment beds and outpatient mental health services.
“We know that treating people in a mental health crisis in the emergency department can place stress on the patient. It’s simply not the right setting to handle their complex needs,” said Betsy Ryan, president and CEO of hospital association. “At the same time, it places increased strain within the emergency department, adding to overcrowding, long waits and increased healthcare costs.”
Many other studies have proven that individuals with mental illness experiencing homelessness who can move into permanent supportive housing can stabilize their lives and recover from mental illness.
But it is hopeful to read that an increased number of people using the states emergency rooms have health insurance. “In 2011, nearly 15 percent of patients with a mental illness or addiction were covered by Medicaid, compared to nearly 29 percent of patients last year.”
The Christie administration’s decision to accepts billions in federal funds to expand the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act has helped reduce the number of charity care patients dramatically.
Roughly, 566,000 people have joined Medicaid since the Affordable Care Act was implemented in 2014.