Debate for psychiatric care need continues

by Clay Neely -

A shortage of mental health care providers, a lack of psychiatric beds, and insufficient or non-existent insurance coverage have Georgia receiving a near-failing grade of D+, according to a recent study.

Those findings come as Coweta County and the city of Newnan have recently joined an appeal after the state denied a Certificate of Need for a behavioral hospital proposed for the old Piedmont site on Hospital Road in Newnan.

State officials denied the CON for the proposed Newnan Behavioral Hospital, citing a “lack of need.”

New study findings show Georgia received failing or near-failing grades in three out of five categories, and the report ranks Georgia in the bottom half of the nation, according to the 2014 American College of Emergency Physicians’ state-by-state report card on America’s emergency care environment.

Georgia’s 46th place ranking in the category of Access to Emergency Care reflects shortages across the full spectrum of medical providers, such as emergency physicians, neurosurgeons, orthopedists and registered nurses.

In addition, the state has too few physicians accepting Medicare patients and more than 20 percent of adults and more than 10 percent of children are uninsured. The state also has fewer than 18 psychiatric care beds per 100,000 residents.

“The lack of access to mental health is a serious problem in our state. The shortage of mental health care providers combined with the lack of psychiatric beds leaves patients with psychiatric illness out in the cold,” said Dr. Matt Keadey, secretary-treasurer of the Georgia Chapter of ACEP.

“Shortages of specialists who see patients in the emergency department and insufficient or non-existent insurance coverage are hurting Georgia residents by creating barriers to medical care,” said Keadey.

The two D+ scores, for Public Health and Injury Prevention and Disaster Preparedness, ranked Georgia in the bottom half of the nation in those categories. The state has some of the lowest immunization rates in the country for influenza and pneumonia and very high rates of bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities.

In addition, Georgia’s ability to respond to disasters is seriously compromised because it is nearly last in the nation for physicians, nurses and behavioral health professionals.

Georgia only earned a C in the category of Quality and Patient Safety Environment in part because it lacks a uniform system for providing pre-arrival instructions as well as funding for quality improvement within the emergency medical services system in the state.

“Georgia’s racial and ethnic disparities for cardiovascular disease, HIV diagnoses and infant mortality are unacceptable,” said Keadey. “We need to work to ensure that all of our residents have adequate access to preventive health care, education, treatment and support to reduce these disparities.”

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