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Budget Cuts for Chicago Mental Health Programs Means Crowded ERs

Our Chicago personal injury attorneys read with concern an article published by MSNBC regarding a very scary trend in recent health care that is plaguing Chicago.

The article reported that the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) estimates that – because of current economic trouble – states have cut $3.4 billion in mental health services in the past in the past three years. Nevertheless, largely because of those same economic difficulties, an additional 400,000 people sought help at public mental health facilities.

Said MSNBC, across the country, doctors are dealing with an increase in attempted suicides and severe cases of depression and psychosis as states slash mental health services during the country’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Moreover, “if the economy doesn’t improve, next year could be worse because many community mental health agencies are cutting programs and using up reserve funds,” says Linda Rosenberg, president of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. Many hospitals are simply not prepared for the increased caseload of psychiatric patients.

This means that across the United States, persons who need psychiatric care are unable to receive proper treatment, and are forced to go to emergency rooms for medication. The spike in psychiatric patients is leading to overcrowding in trauma facilities, and is preventing doctors from spending an adequate amount of time with any patient. Beds are being taken up by patients who ought to be treated in psychiatric wards, and individuals seeking traditional trauma treatment are kept waiting for care.

According to a 2010 survey of 600 hospital emergency department administrators, done by the Schumacher Group which manages emergency departments across the country, more than 70 percent of emergency departments have kept patients waiting in the emergency department for 24 hours.

But perhaps even more concerning is the fact that, in addition to the overcrowding in the emergency units, trauma physicians are ill-equipped to handle psychiatric patients. Dr. William Sullivan, a physician at the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago and a past president of the Illinois College of Emergency Physicians discussed a situation in which a patient asked him to make adjustments to her prescriptions. “I didn’t feel comfortable doing that,” Sullivan said, noting that emergency physicians are being asked to deliver specialized care that should be handled by a psychiatrist. Said Sullivan, “it’s almost akin to having a cardiac patient come in and say, ‘I need someone to adjust my defibrillator.’ In the emergency department, we can do a lot, but there are some things we have to leave with the specialists.”

Because trauma patients aren’t able to receive proper care, the effects of these budget cuts are even more widespread. Doctors and other healthcare providers owe a duty of care to their patients – when they are unable to give them proper care, and that inability causes injury to the patients, Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits may arise.

When someone is determined to be legally responsible for injuring someone else, they are liable for the injury, and may be made to pay the injured person either compensatory damages, which attempts to put an injured person back in the position he or she was in before being injured, or in some cases, punitive damages, which are intended to punish wrongdoers and prevent them from harming others.

A Chicago personal injury attorney can attest to the fact that medical malpractice lawsuits arise from a variety of sources, including:

. Missed Diagnosis . Delayed Diagnosis . Lack of Informed Consent . Birth Injuries . Healthcare Provider Errors . Misread X–ray, Slides, and Ultrasounds . Medical Device Errors . HMO Misconduct . Medication / Pharmaceutical Errors . Spinal Cord Injuries . Dental Malpractice . Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Injuries suffered as a result of medical malpractice can be severe and life altering. If you or a loved one has been injured or has died due to a healthcare provider’s mistakes, contact an attorney immediately to understand your rights under the law.