Every day, people with behavioral health conditions seek help, but have nowhere to turn except their local emergency department. These patients not only utilize more resources than other patients, they are also forced to wait, sometimes for days, until a bed in an inpatient facility becomes available.
“Behavioral health” encompasses various conditions characterized by impairment of an individual's normal cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning. Impairments include those caused by substance use disorders and/or behavioral health conditions resulting from social, psychological, biochemical, genetic, or other factors such as infection or head trauma (Source: ENA Topic Brief: Care of Behavioral Health Patients).
The therapeutic management of behavioral health patients in the emergency department presents some unique and complex issues. There is not a defined set of diagnostic tests that can be ordered to determine the course of their care, and many facilities do not have the on-site services necessary to provide appropriate care. The following resources are provided to assist emergency nurses in improving care for this patient population.