Mental health care backlog leaves Lake Orion child stuck in emergency room for 26 days

Mental healthcare backlog leaves child stuck in emergency room for 26 days
Mental healthcare backlog leaves child stuck in emergency room for 26 days

DETROIT – For months, school administrators have been sounding alarms about a growing mental health crisis amongst students who feel isolated and depressed as a side-effect of the coronavirus pandemic.

READ: U-M Mott Children’s poll: Nearly 50% of parents say pandemic negatively impacted their teens’ mental health

For Leah, it was a desperate situation. Her 12-year-old son -- who battles depression -- was overwhelmed and announced he was ready to end it all.

She believed COVID and the changes the pandemic exacerbated the stresses of a boy who was already going through changes.

His parents took him to the hospital for help, only for them to get surprised with an extended stay.

“We took him to Royal Oak Beaumont,” Leah said. “We went on March 1 and we were waiting there for placement at another facility where he could get further treatment, but unfortunately, we were in an ER room, basically holding and waiting for 26 days before we released him. There are no beds. Every facility is full.”

For 26 days, Leah, her wife and their son lived inside a hospital cubical inside the emergency room.

“I spent multiple hours on phone calls, trying to coordinate, social work, calling inpatient facilities, calling outpatient facilities that could provide new partial daycare,” Leah said. “I have no doubt that everybody was putting in a great effort to make something happen. There was just not the resources available for him.”

“26 days in ER is so traumatizing and kids that I’ve known who have gone into a 72-hour hold in a psych hospital, or have been there for a week have come out traumatized,” said psychotherapist Lisa Weber.

Weber’s concern is that hospitals and healthcare systems are so overloaded with COVID-patients that they are ill-equipped to handle the growing chronic and acute mental health needs, particularly of children.

Beaumont responds to mental health care backlog that left child stuck in emergency room for 26 days
Beaumont responds to mental health care backlog that left child stuck in emergency room for 26 days

READ: Tracking Michigan COVID-19 hospitalization data trends

Leah had enough Friday and demanded her son be released from the emergency room, believing the wait for the psychiatric evaluations was doing more harm than good.

“There was no treatment. Unfortunately, during those 26 days -- and I’m not sure it’s the fault of anybody other than the fact that there are not the resources available to provide the care to this crisis that’s happening right now with our children-- there were multiple patients in the same situation as my son, who has been waiting for weeks and weeks for treatment,” Leah said. “How do you sit in the emergency room for 26 days plus for some of these kids in a small tight room with no physical activity, no counseling, no treatment whatsoever, no evaluation?”

Beaumont Health Systems acknowledges what happened to Leah’s son isn’t an isolated incident.

It’s not just a Beaumont problem, but a problem in every hospital system in the state.

“We’re very concerned about what we’ve seen with the mental health challenges that have come with this this this pandemic,” said Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “We absolutely are looking at what additional resources we can provide for the community to be able to address that. I’ve also seen in my practice in the emergency department, patients who are staying sometimes for days in the emergency department, waiting for beds. It’s certainly something that is very concerning and something that we are looking to address at the department.”

READ: Dr. Joneigh Khaldun voices concern as COVID cases in Michigan increase

Beaumont said things were being done for Leah’s son that could not be seen by the parents and Leah acknowledges the hospital did all it could.

“I have no doubt that everybody was putting in a great effort to make something happen,” Leah said. “There was just not the resources available for him.”

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