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Coalition aims to improve psychiatric emergency care

December 18, 2015

More than 30 mental health and emergency medicine organizations—including the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Council for Behavioral Health—are launching the Coalition on Psychiatric Emergencies (COPE), aimed at improving patient care in emergency departments during psychiatric crisis. 

According to a new survey of nearly 1,500 emergency physicians, 80 percent say the mental health systems in their regions are not working for patients. A recent National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) survey also found that 44 percent of patients were unhappy with their experiences: 38 percent waited more than seven hours to see a mental health professional, and in 21 percent of cases, the wait was more than 10 hours.

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

COPE’s working groups aim to:

  • decrease boarding of psychiatric patients in emergency rooms;
  • ensure education and training for emergency providers;
  • ensure adequate funding and resources for treating psychiatric emergencies;
  • drive improved quality and safety in 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 provider experience during psychiatric emergencies.

COPE members include the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, the American Association for Emergency Psychiatry, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American College of Osteopathic Emergency Physicians, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management, the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the Emergency Nurses Association , the Hospital Corporation of America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Council for Behavioral Health and is supported in part by Teva Pharmaceuticals.

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