Why are children living in emergency rooms? Join The Seattle Times for a discussion on kids’ mental health

Why are children living in emergency rooms? Join The Seattle Times for a discussion on kids’ mental health

The Mental Health Project is a Seattle Times initiative focused on covering mental and behavioral health issues. It is funded by Ballmer Group, a national organization focused on economic mobility for children and families. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over work produced by this team.

In a concerning and growing trend, kids in Washington are living in pediatric emergency rooms because they’re in need of psychiatric care but there is nowhere else for them to go.

There aren’t enough specialized inpatient beds to care for them. Instead they wait, often kept in small rooms with little to do and no ability to go outside. ERs generally don’t have the staff, training or physical safety precautions in place to treat these children’s long-term mental health concerns.

On Wednesday, April 6, at 1 p.m., reporter Hannah Furfaro will talk with Jamie Kautz, the assistant vice president of pediatric care continuum at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, about this issue, reported by The Seattle Times in February. This conversation will provide background and context around how the system for treating kids with critical mental health needs became so fragile, and share tips and resources for families.

To register for the free online event, please visit st.news/boardingevent.

Attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions of the panelists during the event.

The conversation will also explore what happens when kids are abandoned at ERs. Sometimes, a hospital is ready to discharge a youth who has been brought in for psychiatric care, but their parents or guardians won’t pick them up. They may still have concerns about safety at home, or feel unequipped to care for the child’s needs.

In the past, the hospital could rely on Child Protective Services to take an abandoned child into custody, but the agency no longer does this, state officials and hospital staff say.

For families who need extra support to talk about mental health, The Seattle Times created two resource guides to aid conversation. One guide is aimed at parents, guardians and caregivers, with advice on how to initiate conversations with children and teens. The other guide was created for young people to get tips on how to have discussions with family, caregivers or adults.

You can read the entire package at st.news/housedatthehospital. For further information about the event, or if you have questions you would like to see addressed by the speakers, email [email protected].