Many primary care providers are on the front lines of fielding questions and identifying symptoms of psychiatric illness in children and adolescents in the community setting. We have put together a quick guide that addresses some common questions and concerns on how to refer non-emergent psychiatric concerns to community outpatient resources and avoid unnecessary and costly ED visits
What kind of services are and are not available to children with psychiatric/behavioral complaints in the ED?
Psychiatric assessments in the medical ED setting are brief and focused. They are not full psychiatric evaluations and are not meant to provide new diagnosis or start new medications. They are simply a crisis assessment to evaluate for the child’s safety and the safety of others. If a patient is deemed unsafe to self or others, they will be transferred to a primary psychiatric facility for further treatment. It is an assumption of many community providers that patients with psychiatric complaints must first be directed to a medical facility for “medical clearance”. In fact, all psychiatric facilities are emergency receiving facilities and have the resources to provide medical clearance and directly accept healthy patients with behavioral and psychiatric complaints. Most psychiatric hospitals perform psychiatric assessments 24/7, and can place a patient on a 1013 or admit them voluntarily. Psychiatric facilities can also refer families to outpatient or lower levels of care if inpatient psychiatric hospitalization is not warranted. PLEASE NOTE CHOA DOES NOT HAVE INPATIENT PSYCHIATRY SERVICES.