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Mental Health Care Shortage Pushes Patients To ERs

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 (KCEN) --  Local doctors say a nationwide mental health care crisis is crowding emergency rooms, as it's death toll rises.

Amid alarming suicide rates and all too frequent mass killings, they say something must be done.

In the meantime, physicians are stretching their very limited resources.

The April 2, Fort Hood shooting, the Sandy Hook massacre, and the Aurora movie theater incident are just three out of many tragic days in the United States with one common denominator.
"How bad is the mental healthcare crisis in America? I'd definitely give it a 9.5," says Dr Chris Colvin, Emergency Department Medical Director at Seton Medical Center right outside of Fort Hood.

A nation plagued with mental illness is coming up short on treatment resources.

Dr. Colvin says six to 10 patients resort to his ER each day.

"We are lacking the inpatient facilities to send them to. I can do everything I can in the emergency department to stabilize these patients, but then they need to go somewhere," says Colvin.

Meanwhile, some veterans are waiting years for appointments through the Veterans Administration, (VA), as its massive backlog cover-up scandal unravels.

"The access to care for them is very difficult. It's not available," Dr. Colvin says.

If those veterans call psychiatrists and psychologists outside of the VA, they're likely hear, "Sorry, we're not taking new patients."
Due to overwhelming demand, Dr. Brad Evans, a Clinical Psychologist at Pathfinders in Killeen, is only able to accept those who are at acute risk.

"Nobody wants to turn away somebody who needs to be seen or wants to be seen, so I always try to provide some other type of option," says Dr. Evans.

General practitioners, help lines, and nonprofit's help shrink the gap in care.

Still some fall through the cracks.

Dr. Evans says, "I have had people relay that to me, that had I not come see you, I don't know how this would have turned out."

Dr. Colvin says filling that void will take years, but that it must start with more dialogue.

He says, "It's not an attractive policy to discuss, but it's real, and it's not going away."

It's a reality with all too frequent reminders of its immeasurable human cost.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:
U.S. Veterans Administration:
U.S. Military:

Fort Hood:

Reporter: Sophia Stamas

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