On a 7-Year-Old Waiting 5 Days in an Emergency Room

Louisiana’s children have been neglected far too long. In fact, Louisiana holds the dubious distinction of sitting next to last in our nation for child well-being. We have been here for 27 years.

Perhaps some sort of immoral gravity holds Louisiana at the bottom of child well-being? I don’t know. That said, I do want to share information with you about a disturbing gap today in psychiatric care for Louisiana’s children.

For 5 days this past week, a 7-year-old foster child was held in a general hospital’s Emergency Department. The little guy was kept there under the authority of a Physician’s Emergency Certificate (PEC) which should have resulted in his quick admission into a psychiatric hospital.

This child’s 5-day stay in an Emergency Room (ER) happened because no bed was available for him in any of Louisiana’s psychiatric hospitals. His behavior in the ER ranged from very aggressive to “sweet as he can be”. (If you have spent any amount of time waiting in an ER, you know being detained for five days in one of those little rooms would make you act out!)

How do I know about this child? I know because four of our Methodist Foster Care staff and the child’s TFC foster parents took turns being with him while he awaited a bed in a psychiatric hospital.

Why was there no bed available for this young child in a psychiatric hospital? Louisiana has insufficient resources for our children.

Our staff were told there are children in Louisiana’s psychiatric hospitals who are ready for discharge but they cannot leave because there is no next place for them.

The dynamic of children being “stuck” in treatment locations because the next care they require is not available is so common in Louisiana that the shoptalk slang for these children is: “dwellers”.

Essentially, children are sitting in the emergency rooms of general hospitals waiting for beds in psychiatric hospitals. Children in psychiatric hospitals are dwelling there as they await their next placement.

This cannot continue! Louisiana, ask your Senators and Representatives to help solve this!

(Use this page at the Louisiana Legislature’s website to find out how to contact your Senator and Representative: http://legis.la.gov/legis/FindMyLegislators.aspx )

Do it, please! Do it now! It is time for us to speak up for our children, Louisiana!

Rick Wheat
President and Chief Executive Officer
Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services