Families struggle as psych beds disappear from hospitals

By Julie Mack: For More Info, Go Here…

Six times in the past year, 8-year-old Isaiah Robinson has been taken to a Kalamazoo emergency department in the midst of a psychiatric crisis.

In each case, Natasha Robinson was afraid her son – who has autism, anxiety and attention deficient hyperactivity disorder – was so agitated that he might hurt her or himself.

In each case, hospital workers simply sedated Isaiah and sent him home, despite Robinson’s concerns.

In one instance, Isaiah’s threat of suicide made Natasha afraid to go home, so the two stayed at a hotel until locks were installed on their second-floor windows and knives and other sharp objects were locked away.

Meanwhile, Natasha’s real goal in going to the emergency department – obtaining an in-patient treatment for Isaiah – remained elusive until late last week, when Isaiah was admitted to Hawthorn Center, Michigan’s only state-run psychiatric hospital for children. The admission took months of effort because there are so few psychiatric beds for an 8-year-old with aggressive behavior.

“I don’t want to send my baby away,” says Natasha, a single mother who lives in suburban Kalamazoo. But she desperately wants clinicians to observe Isaiah’s behavior so they can adjust his medication and help come up with a long-term treatment plan.

Robinson’s story is emblematic of how the state’s severe shortage of in-patient psychiatric beds means patients in crisis sometimes can’t get help when they need it.

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