The most common entry point for those seeking health care.See Solutions
The U.S. health care system has historically treated mental and physical health conditions separately, fragmenting whole-person care into different components. But nearly half of adults will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime. Hospitals — as centralized units of care that may encompass emergency departments, short-term psychiatric treatment facilities, and other units — are critical for integration. If policy better supports integration of mental health care throughout hospitals, they can become another entry point for whole-person care.
One-third of hospital stays are now related to mental health diagnoses, and these admissions cost approximately twice as much.1“Pain in the Nation Update” (Trust for America’s Health and Well Being Trust, March 2019).1/3
Young people in psychiatric crisis in the ED who reported they had not previously sought outpatient care.2P. J. Gill et al., “Emergency Department as a First Contact for Mental Health Problems in Children and Youth,” J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 56, no. 6 (June 2017): 475-482.e4, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2017.03.012.1/2
Hospitals can be a good point to identify people who have fallen through the cracks and who might not intersect with health care outside of showing up in the Emergency Department.
While mental health is a common comorbidity with other physical health or medical conditions, it frequently goes undiagnosed — increasing costs and worsening outcomes. Hospitalization provides another opportunity to identify needs; this is especially true in suicide prevention, where hospital contacts have been found to be an effective intervention point.
Mental health crises can lead patients to the Emergency Department, but many EDs are not well equipped to provide the right care. Integration is key to improving quality of care: integrating mental and physical care within the ED; integrating care between Emergency Medical Services and EDs; and integrating ED care with community-based treatment.
To be effective, mental health solutions need to address individuals' range of identities based on race, ethnicity, language, gender, or gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, veteran's status, or life circumstances. We recommend meaningful policies to combat a harmful legacy of one-size-fits-all solutions.Explore our recommended policies for focus populations
One-third of hospital stays are related to mental health diagnoses. Read our proposed policy solutions to improve care.Download One Pager