Mercy Health recently announced the launch of a telemedicine program to meet an urgent need for psychiatric services at emergency departments in and around the Toledo area. The system is partnering with Lighthouse Telehealth, a subsidiary of Harbor, to provide around-the-clock psychiatric consultations at Toledo’s three metro hospitals: St. Vincent Medical Center, St. Charles Hospital and St. Anne Hospital. Lighthouse Telehealth doctors and advanced practice nurses will also provide psychiatric care at free-standing emergency departments in neighboring Sylvania and Perrysburg and inpatient care at the Mercy Health — Behavioral Health Institute on the St. Charles campus.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that almost 19 percent of the nation’s adults are afflicted by a mental illness in a given year, while almost 22 percent of youths age 13-18 face a serious mental health issue in their lifetimes. While those percentages are increasing, the numbers of mental health experts are trending in the opposite direction.
Roughly 13 percent of all ED visits require a mental health consult, according to a 2016 study published in Health — and that percentage is increasing. The American College of Emergency Physicians notes that more psychiatric cases end up in the ED because resources for treating them are stretched thin and more people are being diagnosed as in need of mental health care. Yet, at the same time, the number of psychiatric beds in EDs has dropped from about 500,000 in the 1970s to 113,569 in 2010.
Mercy’s arrangement with Lighthouse Telehealth enables the health system to access mental health specialists at any time without boosting ED staffing or bulking up overtime costs. "There is an ongoing shortage of medical professionals to cover the increasing demand for services in our area,” John Sheehan, CEO of Harbor, an Ohio-based provider of mental health services and the parent company of Lighthouse Telehealth, said in a press release. “We believe that successful partnerships in health care are based on a shared vision and values that achieve