Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Recession fills area’s ER beds with mentally ill State ‘back to square one’ on issue, official says

On Thursday, nearly one-third of the patients in Las Vegas Valley emergency rooms were awaiting psychiatric care.

That morning’s tally — 117 people whose minds had unraveled to a point where they were considered a danger to themselves or others — was higher than the number cited when Clark County declared a mental health emergency in 2004. The resurgence has health care officials concerned that the stress of the economic collapse could be fueling another communitywide psychiatric crisis.

A coalition formed to address the issue five years ago stopped meeting in 2007. But its members regrouped Thursday to try, once again, to reconcile an increasing demand for psychiatric care with a dwindling supply.

“There are more people in crisis, we still have overcrowding and a lack of services, bringing us kind of back to square one,” said Janelle Kraft Pearce, a retired Metro Police official and chairwoman of the Southern Nevada Mental Health Coalition.

She was speaking to a group that included directors of hospital emergency rooms, psychiatrists, drug and alcohol abuse counselors, and state mental health officials. Many of them had come together in years past to talk about the same problem.


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