Posted Nov. 12, 2015 at 10:04 PM
Updated at 8:31 AM
The Massachusetts Nurses Association applauds the compelling commentaryby state Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, highlighting his concerns about Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposal to use already-overburdened hospital emergency departments for the boarding of patients suffering from opioid addiction who may be held involuntarily in our hospitals for up to 72 hours (Nov. 7).
Keenan appropriately cites the fact that our EDs are already overcrowded with patients suffering from mental health conditions due to the lack of beds and services in the system. In fact, one study, conducted by the state’s Mental Health Advisory Committee in 2013 found that more 40,000 patients with mental health conditions are boarding in our hospital EDs each year, waiting for several hours to several days for appropriate care and services.
The addition of thousands of patients suffering from addiction will only exacerbate this crisis.
Senator Keenan is correct in highlighting legislation to require insurers to pay for more care for addiction, yet this alone is not enough. The state and our private-sector facilities need to open more beds for those suffering with mental health conditions and addiction.
We need an increase in outpatient and transitional programs for those with addiction. In addition, the Massachusetts Nurses Association has filed pending legislation that would establish a pilot program that would reopen beds at Taunton State Hospital for the care of patients with mental illness outside of hospital emergency departments. We also need to pass the Patient Safety Act, legislation that would require safer staffing in hospitals, including our EDs, which are severely understaffed, causing long delays in care for all types of patients.
The bottom line is our state and our nation are failing to provide appropriate care and services for those suffering from mental illness and addiction, and the proposed use of hospital EDs as a dumping ground for these vulnerable patients is not only bad policy; it is a disservice to those most in need.
DONNA KELLY-WILLIAMS, RN
President, Massachusetts Nurses Association