NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 13, 2010

Nearly 12 million emergency room (ER) visits in the United States in 2007 involved mental disorders, a substance abuse problem or both, according to a new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). 

Of these visits -- which represented about 12 percent of all ER visits in 2007 -- about 66 percent involved patients with a mental disorder, about 25 percent involved patients with a substance abuse problem and the remaining visits involved patients with both a mental disorder and a substance abuse issue. 

Other findings: 

  • More than 40 percent of these patients were hospitalized for their condition.
  • AHRQ also notes that these patients were 2.5 times more likely to be hospitalized than other ER patients.
  • These patients were mostly women and nearly half were individuals ages 18 to 44.
  • Hospitals billed Medicare for 30 percent of these visits and private insurance for 26 percent. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, the five most common conditions were mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol disorders, drug disorders, schizophrenia and other psychoses, and intentional self-harm. 

Source: Jeannine Stein, "Millions of yearly visits to the ER involve patients with mental disorders and substance abuse problems," Los Angeles Times, July 9, 2010. 

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