New coalition aims to improve behavioral health care in ED


More than 30 of the nation's top mental health and emergency medicine leaders are launching the Coalition on Psychiatric Emergencies (COPE) aimed at improving patient care in emergency departments during psychiatric crisis.  

The coalition will address issues raised by a new survey of nearly 1,500 emergency physicians, which found that 80 percent of emergency physicians say the mental health care systems in their regions are not working for patients.

"More people are coming to emergency departments for help during psychiatric emergencies," said Dr Michael Gerardi, COPE steering committee chair and immediate past president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. 

"It's time we think about doing things differently. Through this unique collaboration, the Coalition on Psychiatric Emergencies will focus on developing a more unified treatment model and improving the treatment experience for both patients and health care providers. We want to provide the best care for all our patients and reduce health care costs." 

The ACEP survey comes on the heels of two other national surveys that show the current model is not working for either emergency staff or patients. A recent Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) study found a majority of emergency room nurses report a shortage of tailored education and training, which makes the care of patients with mental health issues more difficult.

From a patient point of view, a recent National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) survey found that 44 percent of patients were unhappy with their experience: 38 percent waited more than 7 hours to see a mental health professional, and in 21 percent of cases the wait was more than 10 hours.

Through the establishment of five working groups, COPE specifically aims to decrease waiting for inpatient psychiatric beds ("boarding") for psychiatric patients in emergency rooms; ensure education and training for emergency health care providers who care for patients experiencing psychiatric emergencies; ensure adequate funding and resources for treating psychiatric emergencies; drive improved quality and safety of diagnosis and treatment for psychiatric emergencies; advance the research around psychiatric emergencies; develop a continuum of care to include prevention and aftercare; and improve patient and health care provider experience during psychiatric emergencies.

Coalition on Psychiatric Emergencies, COPE, Psychiatric, Dr Michael Gerardi, US