Article

Community Mental Health Journal

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 159-168

First online:

Characteristics of Individuals With Severe Mental Illness Who Use Emergency Services

  • Alexander S. YoungAffiliated withDepartment of Veterans Affairs Desert Pacific Mental Illness Research, Education, Clinical CenterUCLA Department of PsychiatryRANDWest Los Angeles Veterans Healthcare Center
  • , Matthew J. ChinmanAffiliated withDepartment of Veterans Affairs Desert Pacific Mental Illness Research, Education, Clinical CenterRAND
  • , Julie A. Cradock-O’LearyAffiliated with 
  • , Green SullivanAffiliated withRANDDepartment of Veterans Affairs South Central Mental Illness Research, Education, Clinical Center
  • , Dennis MurataAffiliated withLos Angeles County Department of Mental Health
  • , Jim MintzAffiliated withDepartment of Veterans Affairs Desert Pacific Mental Illness Research, Education, Clinical CenterUCLA Department of Psychiatry
  • , Paul KoegelAffiliated withRAND

Abstract

Emergency services are both a safety net and a locus for acute treatment. While the population with severe, persistent mental illness uses emergency services at a high rate, few studies have systematically examined the causes of this service use. This study examines a random sample of 179 people who were high utilizers of services from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Interviews were conducted and 5 years of service use data were studied. Greater use of emergency services was associated with male gender, minority race, severe illness, homelessness, and less family support. Efforts to reduce emergency services need to improve access to appropriate community services, particularly for people who are homeless or lack family support.

Keywords

adult; emergency services psychiatric mental disorders schizophrenia mental health services health care utilization African Americans needs health services accessibility human United States