Overcrowded, Underserved: Innovative Approaches to Addressing the Behavioral Health Crisis in Emergency Departments

By Mark Wenneker, MD and Brett Pederson

As the incidence of behavioral health conditions continues to climb, pressure is mounting on an already overburdened infrastructure in the Emergency Department (ED).

Many ED staff don’t have the requisite skills and training for behavioral evaluation and treatment, and the availability of behavioral health specialists is often limited, particularly in smaller community hospitals. This not only results in worse clinical outcomes for patients with behavioral health conditions but also in fewer resources — particularly available staff — for other patients. The result is longer wait times for all patients, decreased patient and provider satisfaction, and increased costs.

Innovative approaches in EDs can alleviate some of the burden on clinicians and staff, improve clinical care, and reduce costs. In this paper, we examine the innovative approaches at two leading health systems that have demonstrated effectiveness in helping address this crisis.


"Even communities that have made significant investment in a crisis program infrastructure will continue have patients who need care in the ED because of significant co-morbid medical conditions. A new care model for patients with behavioral health conditions in the ED is essential."


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Learn More From the Team

Mark B Wenneker, MD
Principal, Behavioral Health Segment Leader
[email protected]

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Overcrowded, Underserved: Innovative Approaches… | The Chartis Group