Waiting Two Months: An Outraged Patient Complains About Long Wait Times For Psychiatric Appointments

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(4-5-19) Getting an appointment with a psychiatrist often is difficult especially if you live in a rural area or if you have a serious mental illness. Even in urban areas, some doctors do not wish to treat patients who have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.  Others only accept cash because they don’t want the hassle of dealing with insurance reimbursements or Medicaid.
Little wonder that individuals in crisis often go directly to emergency rooms. But that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll get speedy help either or ever see a psychiatrist rather than an ER doctor. 
At a recent conference, a speaker claimed the average wait time at a hospital ER  in the United States for a non-life threatening emergency was three to four hours. The waiting time for someone with a non-life threatening mental illness was three to four days! 
There has been a push in recent years to end psychiatric boarding where individuals in crisis often must wait days in emergency rooms for a bed.  But finding beds either in a hospital or community setting remains problematic.
I recently received an email from a California reader who told me how difficult it had become for her to see her psychiatrist regularly. Let me know on my Facebook page how long of a wait there might be in your community and what, if any, steps have been taken to treat persons with mental disorders no differently from others with medical issues.
Dear Pete,
I’m a mentally person who has been diagnosed with Bi-polar, Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Severe OCD and physical ailments.  I’ve attached a message that I have sent to Kaiser Permanente.
I’ve been trying to find answers for YEARS to why the wait time for mental health appts. gets longer and longer.  I get answers like: “IF YOU FEEL THAT BAD, THEN GO TO THE ER AND THEY CAN HELP YOU.”

That isn’t the help that I’m looking for or need.  And that’s a very flippant answer.  I’ve been 5150, [involuntarily committed] more than I’d like to say and it’s horrible, simply horrible. Prisoners get more freedoms than someone who is committed. We’re treated like 3rd class citizens. 
Because we’re mentally ill, they dismiss us in every possible way.  They make you feel ashamed and unwanted.  And terrified.  
I don’t want to be 5150 again so I attempt to see my psychiatrist on a regular basis, but my appointments get pushed further and further apart. It is NOT healthy when I can’t see my psychiatrist or talk to a doctor for six fricken weeks!  

I am tried of hearing excuses and not getting help. Tonight is my last attempt to communicate with Kaiser. The note that I have included with this email might not be nice. But how many times can you ask and beg, and get nowhere?
My cognitive thinking is not that good right now, so my sentences and paragraphs might ramble on.  I’m on Ativan, Gabapentin, Lithium, Saphris, Topamax, Vistaril, and sometimes all those medications get to me.

Thank you for listening

Here is the MESSAGE to Kaiser…


    The Behavioral Health (mental health) unit moved from Sherman Terrace, in Reseda to Sylmar, California at the end of 2018, and lost some of its doctors.
Our Appt. Spots have gotten gotten soooo bad that we can only see our psychiatrist every TWO MONTHS!!!  This is unfair. We have MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS. 
     I have SEVERE mental health problems. You knew for a LONG time you were moving.  You have had PLENTY of time to hire people.  PLENTY OF TIME.  Why should WE, the mentally ill be penalized because you guys can’t get your act together and hire more people? 
    This is fricken RIDICULOUS.
     I’ve been seeing my Dr. more than fifteen years.  I’m not like – off the street or something.  And if I was off the street, I still should not have to wait that long. 
    Again, we are MENTALLY ILL PEOPLE.  If someone had cancer, and needed to see a Dr., regularly, would you guys really make them wait 60 days?
     I think NOT.  And don’t tell me GO TO THE ER, IF YOUR IN DESPERATE NEED. 
     Why should I have to do that? This is about seeing your regular psychiatrist, with who you have a relationship with.  Whom you trust.  Whom you can confide in. 
    You guys are a MULTI-BILLION dollar company, and your mental patients are left out to dry.  It’s very pathetic.  There is no excuse at all.  It was bad enough when they went from ONE month appts, to ONE AND A HALF appts. Because they said they were too short handed.
   Excuse after excuse on why you can’t service us properly. 
    I guess as long as everybody on your end is raking in the dough, it just doesn’t matter.  Well it matters to all of us!



About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.