The mental health crisis requires urgent action by the Chamber

What is behind the endless time it takes to do something on Beacon Hill?

Is it because legislators’ debates and objections take place in a vacuum, far from the source of the real-life problems before them?

This isolation of the State Chamber can be subjected to a separate, deliberate analysis of the issues, based solely on their qualities, but without the urgency that some decisions require.

An example is the cascading behavioral and health crisis that is gripping the country’s medical community.

It has been almost seven months since the Senate unanimously approved a comprehensive behavioral health bill.

One of its key provisions will be what is known as boarding the emergency department or “boarding an ED”. That’s when those who are in a mental health crisis seek help in the hospital’s emergency department.

Waiting to be admitted to an inpatient psychiatric ward can take days or weeks. Meanwhile, those seeking help remain in the emergency department, receiving little or no psychiatric care.

The bill will create an online real-time data portal to help providers find open beds more easily. This will also require hospital emergency departments to have a qualified behavioral health clinician to assess patients throughout working hours.

In late November, the bill moved to the House Roads and Funds Committee, where it has been since.

Meanwhile, the public health system is flooded with people in need of the resources this legislation will provide.

A snapshot of this exponentially growing supply-demand gap came through a recent article in the Boston Globe.

It said Monday that almost all pediatric emergency beds at South Shore Hospital were occupied by suicidal children.

The 10 patients, some of whom have been stranded there for 12 days or more, are waiting for a facility to take care of their mental health needs. Another 18 adults were in the emergency department with behavioral and health problems who were also waiting for beds.

This is not an isolated scenario, but rather a worrying trend.

Community staff across the community face an unprecedented number of patients with critical behavioral health needs; this is a major contribution to the accumulation of emergency departments, which has increased in recent weeks.

According to data collected by the Massachusetts Association of Health and Hospitals, a hospital on May 2 had all the beds in the emergency department staffed by patients awaiting psychiatric evaluation or placement.

The 557 patients who went to the emergency departments of public hospitals on May 16 – another high value of water – also speaks to the scale of the crisis.

In addition to flooding emergency departments, this surge in behavioral health has forced some patients – those working on the Senate bill – to take beds on ordinary hospital floors while waiting for inpatient psychiatric care, sometimes for weeks or even months.

Unlike the jumps in COVID-19, which seem to vary with the new options, officials say the influx of patients with behavioral health in emergency departments has not subsided.

Although COVID-19 did not create this massive backup of behavioral health services, it certainly exacerbated the bad situation.

Apparently in no hurry to speed up the adoption of this vital piece of legislation, President Ron Mariano revealed in March that the House intends to pursue its own mental health bill for the rest of the legislature, improving behavioral health care reforms passed months ago by the Senate. Mariano said the House of Representatives and the Senate should eventually be able to merge their respective bills to drive “a real overall change in the way we deal with mental health.”

Take your time, Mr. Orator; those countless mental health patients seeking services and overcrowded medical centers can wait.

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