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North Carolina ERs being utilized to house foster kids and those in mental health crisis

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The emergency room isn't supposed to be a place to live for days or weeks. But that’s what’s been happening for many North Carolinians in the midst of a mental health crisis, our Local Journalism



On any given day this January, an average of 350 North Carolinians waited in emergency rooms even after they needed a hospital bed, state data shows. They boarded in ERs because no psychiatric beds were available — either in a state hospital or a nonprofit or for-profit hospital, such as Atrium or Novant. 


Some children are abandoned in the ER for weeks. A state health department dashboard shows that 27 kids sat in emergency rooms in the first three months of this year. Eleven of them were in the custody of county social service departments. A representative for Cone Health said those children board for an average of 66 days in their ERs. 


“They might stay in our department in some cases for upwards of six months in time. If that happens, we lose the ability to care for hundreds of patients through that one bed,” Steinl said. 


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Yep, this was a major driving force as to why I’m currently on the other side of the planet on an LOA.


when I could predict an ER visit length of stay based on the patients presentation SES, and insurance you know there’s an issue.


the system is on the verge of collapse. I’ll share this piece on information with you. The new residents start In less than a month, before my LOA I learned that nation wide there were over two thousand er resident spots left unfilled for the incoming cohort.

Nobody wants to do this job anymore. So combine that with the systemic issues things are gonna get real bad really soon.

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I'll have to read the full article after work to see if this is similarly applicable in North Carolina, but I know that at least in the county in which I grew up (rural Idaho), if someone goes to the ER and can't pay, it's on the county to pay. A lot of healthcare providers I knew growing up there were (understandably IMO) frustrated when 1) mental health care isn't properly funded and 2) the ER is treated as the default healthcare (i.e. only go to the ER rather than your primary doctor), because it means that everything gets more expensive and it often lands on the county to pay. 

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