Lack of mental health services brings more people to emergency rooms

By Alyssa Donovan

October 25, 2013 Updated Oct 25, 2013 at 7:00 PM CDT

MCLEAN COUNTY, Ill.-- A lack of mental health services in Mclean County is causing a growing number of people to seek help at local hospitals.

Officials at Advocate Bromenn Medical Center have seen a steady increase in people with mental health issues coming into the emergency department.

Advocate Bromenn's Director of Behavioral Health Renee Donaldson says the patients come in with a variety of unmet needs.

"The goal is to see if we can connect them with services that are out in the community. If those services are not available or the patients’ condition warrants an inpatient admission than we look to admit them to our hospital psychiatric unit here,” Donaldson said.

Advocate Bromenn's 17-bed psychiatric unit is often full and patients must wait to be transferred to another facility.

3 rooms in the emergency department have been turned into 'safe rooms' to help keep these patients calm and comfortable.

Those that can be admitted to an outpatient treatment center are often sent to the Mclean County Center for Human Services.

"We specialize in providing care to people that have the greatest needs and the fewest resources. That includes the Medicaid population, the non-Medicaid working poor, uninsured, under insured,” said Tom Barr, Executive Director at the Center for Human Services.

Barr says there are several contributing factors that have led to the lack of mental health services.

"The cut to funding for social service agencies to the state, the other is that over time consistently the state has decreased its residential alternatives, its psychiatric beds,” said Barr.

"I believe it's been an ongoing increased trend based on some of the services or lack of services that are available really on a national level which has also hit our community here,” said Donaldson.

The hospital will continue to work with local agencies and facilities to help solve the issue.