Pediatric mental health emergencies in the emergency medical services system. American College of Emergency Physicians

Margaret A Dolan, Sharon E Mace
Annals of Emergency Medicine 2006, 48 (4): 484-6
Emergency departments (EDs) are vital in the management of pediatric patients with mental health emergencies (MHE). Pediatric MHE are an increasing part of emergency medical practice because EDs have become the safety net for a fragmented mental health infrastructure which is experiencing critical shortages in services in all sectors. EDs must safely, humanely, and in a culturally and developmentally appropriate manner manage pediatric patients with undiagnosed and known mental illnesses including those with mental retardation, autistic spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and those experiencing a behavioral crisis. EDs also manage patients with suicidal ideation, depression, escalating aggression, substance abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, maltreatment, and those exposed to violence and unexpected deaths. EDs must address not only the physical but also the mental health needs of patients during and after mass casualty incidents and disasters. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Emergency Physicians support the following actions: advocacy for increased mental health resources, including improved pediatric mental health tools for the ED, increased mental health insurance coverage, adequate reimbursement at all levels; acknowledgment of the importance of the child's medical home, and promotion of education and research for mental health emergencies.

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