(WTVD) RALEIGH, N.C. There is a clear need for more hospital beds dedicated to behavioural health in almost every emergency department in the state.

According to Dr. Micah Krempasky, chief medical officer at WakeMed, “there’s nothing more irritating as a health care provider when someone needs something that you can’t give them.”

Approximately 13,700 mental health consultations will be completed in WakeMed’s emergency rooms this year, 4,300 more than in 2019.

Although demand is increasing, there aren’t enough resources to meet it.

After being referred by an emergency room, patients must wait an average of 12 days to enter a state psychiatric hospital throughout the state. The wait time is roughly four times greater what it was in 2013 and double what it was three years ago.
Krempasky declared, “That’s inappropriate in other branches of medicine.” “It wouldn’t be acceptable if we told someone who needed to wait 2, 3, or 4 days yet had cardiac demands. But that is the reality of mental health care in our society today. Therefore, we require care, but it is just unavailable.”

She claimed that compared to the care a regular hospital may offer, in-patient mental health care looked very different. A few of the special offerings are “healing surroundings,” group therapy, and social support.

The National Alliance on Mental Health’s (NAMI) associate executive director, Peg Morrison, referred to the wait time as “unfathomable.”

“Think about how somebody would feel in an ER if they were not receiving care and were unable to leave. Anyone’s mental health would suffer as a result. Now, if I were to see myself having the worst day of my life and feeling so miserable that I wanted to hurt myself, it would be incomprehensible and we could do better “said Morrison.

The amount of care individuals require and their insurance status can also affect how long they must wait. Lack of room at facilities is a major factor affecting wait times. Over the past 20 years, the state has reduced the number of psychiatric beds. According to psychiatrist and Duke University professor Dr. Marvin Swartz, since 2000, North Carolina has lost almost 900 state psychiatric beds.
“From 2000 to 2011, we purposefully cut the number of beds in the state hospitals in half. General psychiatric beds were also eliminated because they were not profitable. About 500 of those were lost. Thus, there is a severe shortage; “explained Swartz. “We would still fall short, even if we increased the personnel, crisis centres, and alternative capacity.”

For every 100,000 people, North Carolina has just about 22 psychiatric beds, which is less than the needed 50 beds. For every 100,000 population, there were 340 psychiatric beds in the state in 1955.

According to WakeMed, as population and demand continue to rise, the state will regress further. Without further funding, the state will run out of beds by 2030, totaling 500.

“We are experiencing population growth. In this location, that’s amazing. To be clear, we are striving to get individuals to the open beds, and the state is doing a good job building a framework for that so that they can see in real-time where the beds will be available. We are starting with a shortage of mental health experts and a shortage of beds. But I do worry a lot about population growth “said Morrison.

She claimed that the administration is working on creating a dashboard so that hospitals can quickly identify where vacant psychiatric beds are located around the state.