Waiting 76 Days For A Psych Bed: A Dwindling Supply Forces Families To Wait Days In Hallways

Overcrowded hospitals. Patients on gurneys in hallways

(10-24-22) How long must you wait to get a loved one into a psych bed in your community?

The last time that I checked, the average wait time nationally in a hospital emergency room for a NON-LIFE threatening emergency was four hours. The average wait time for a psychiatric problem was FOUR DAYS.

We all know why. It started with the closing of state mental hospitals and got worse with little funding for community services. Hospitals traditionally lose money on psych beds. They make much more of surgical and other beds. So hospitals began shutting down they psychiatric wards. Many ERs are reluctant to accept patients in the midst of a psychiatric crisis. The requirement of immediate danger gives some hospitals an excuse for turning folks away. Those with the most serious illnesses – schizophrenia – are the quickest to be shown the doors.

My former employer, The Washington Post, published an example of what is happening today because of our dwindling supply of psychiatric beds.  Thank you Reporter William Wan for educating the public about this travesty.

Zach Chafos languished for a total of 76 days in a Maryland ER waiting for a psychiatric bed — part of a growing mental health treatment crisis for teens across the country


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.