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Emergency mental health visits and readmissions in children’s hospitals are on the rise

According to a new study, emergency room visits and repeat visits in children’s hospitals with mental health conditions are rising rapidly.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, found that between 2015 and 2020, visits to pediatric emergency departments increased by 8% each year, and about 13% of these patients returned within 6 months came back to visit. In contrast, all other emergency department sees an increased of 1.5% yearly.

Children’s Mental Health

Mental health return visits increased by 6.3% each year, but in general, the percentage of visits leading to return visits remained stable.

“This indicates an increase in return patient visits. “Even when pediatric psychiatric crises worsened, the study duration was shorter,” wrote the researchers at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, University of Southern California, and Boston Children’s Hospital.

The new study included data from more than 200,000 patients treated at 38 children’s hospitals nationwide between October 1, 2015, and February 29, 2020. Data are obtained from the Pediatric Health Information System, a children’s hospital administrative database.

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Most Common Diagnosis

Mental Health-Children-Hospitals, Emergency
Emergency room visits and repeat visits to mental health-related children’s hospitals are “rising rapidly,” according to a new study.

The researchers looked at how many visits included a diagnosis of a disorder or intentional self-harm. Mean, repeated mental health visits were analyzed. They also analyzed repeat visits, which meant patients returned to the emergency department within 6 months of the first visit.

Suicidal ideation or self-harm was the most common diagnosis at psychiatric emergency room visits, accounting for 28.7% of patients. 23.5% mood disorders; 10.4% anxiety disorders; and 9.7% disruptive or impulse control disorders.

Data showed that 13.2% of psychiatric emergency room visits were revisited within 6 months. Patients with diagnoses associated with disability or behavioral disorders such as impulse control disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders, and psychotic disorders were at the highest risk of return visits. Patients with substance use disorders were more likely to return to the emergency department was lower.

Read more: California Gov. Gavin Newsom announces grants totaling $480.5 million for child mental health

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