Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Population Health and Health Policy

Use of Critical Access Hospital Emergency Rooms by Patients with Mental Health Symptoms


Context: National data demonstrate that mental health visits to the emergency room (ER) comprise a small, but not inconsequential, proportion of all visits; however, we lack a rural picture this issue.<p></p>
Purpose: This study investigates the use of Critical Access Hospital (CAH) ERs by patients with mental health problems to understand the role these facilities play in rural mental health needs, and the challenges they face.<p></p>
Methods: We collected primary data through the combination of a telephone survey and ER visit logs. Our sampling frame was the universe of CAHs at the time the survey was fielded.<p></p>
Key Findings: 43% of CAHs surveyed operate in communities with no mental health services, while 9.4% of all logged visits were by patients identified as having some type of mental health problem. The most common problems identified were substance abuse, anxiety and psychotic disorders. Only 32% of CAHs have access to onsite detoxification and 2% have inpatient psychiatric services, meaning that patients in need of these services typically must leave their communities to gain treatment.<p></p>
Conclusions: The lack of community resources may impact CAHs ability to assist patients with mental health problems. Among those with a primary mental health condition 21% left the ER with no or unknown treatment, as did 51% of patients whose mental health condition was secondary to their emergent problem. Patients in need of detoxification or inpatient psychiatric services often must travel over an hour to obtain these services, potentially creating significant issues for themselves and their families

Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Publish Date: 
April 1, 2007

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Dr. Ziller to speak on Rural Implementation and Impact of Medicaid Expansions

The impact of the ACA Medicaid expansion on health care coverage and access in rural areas is largely unknown and will depend on the different state policy contexts in which the expansions are implemented and on existing system capacity. Understanding how many rural residents are likely to become newly eligible for Medicaid under the ACA, as well as their characteristics and health status, will provide important information to aid policymakers in structuring outreach and enrollment strategies and ensuring that the healthcare infrastructure and delivery systems in rural areas can address the needs of these individuals.

On March 18th, Dr. Ziller, Deputy Director of the Maine Rural Health Research Center at the University of Southern Maine, will present via a SHARE webinar, nationally representative information identifying rural-urban differences among low-income non-elderly adults (18 to 65) in the following areas:

  • Medicaid eligibility, pre-ACA
  • Medicaid participation, pre-ACA
  • New Medicaid eligibility in 2014

Dr. Ziller will also analyze the characteristics associated with any rural-urban differences in the above areas. Characteristics to be considered include age, gender, employment, education, income, Census region, health status, current relationship to primary care provider, primary care supply, and FQHC availability.

This webinar is based on Dr. Ziller's research under a State Health Access Reform Evaluation (SHARE) grant to inform federal and state implementation of the ACA Medicaid expansion by estimating the size and characteristics of the rural population likely to be newly eligible.
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