Emergency Treatment of Deliberate Self-harm

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Abstract

Context

Although concern exists over the quality of emergency mental health services, little is known about the mental health care of adults who are admitted to emergency departments for deliberately harming themselves and then discharged to the community.

Objective

To describe the predictors of emergency department discharge, the emergency mental health assessments, and the follow-up outpatient mental health care of adult Medicaid beneficiaries treated for deliberate self-harm.

Design

A retrospective longitudinal cohort analysis.

Setting

National Medicaid claims data supplemented with county-level sociodemographic variables and Medicaid state policy survey data.

Participants

Adults aged 21 to 64 years who were treated in emergency departments for 7355 episodes of deliberate self-harm, focusing on those who were discharged to the community (4595 episodes).

Main Outcome Measures

Rates and adjusted risk ratios (ARRs) of discharge to the community, mental health assessments in the emergency department, and outpatient mental health visits during the 30 days following the emergency department visit.

Results

Most patients (62.5%) were discharged to the community. Emergency department discharge was directly related to younger patient age (21-31 years vs 45-64 years) (ARR, 1.18 [99% confidence interval {CI}, 1.10-1.25]) and self-harm by cutting (ARR, 1.18 [99% CI, 1.12-1.24]) and inversely related to poisoning (ARR, 0.84 [99% CI, 0.80-0.89]) and recent psychiatric hospitalization (ARR, 0.74 [99% CI, 0.67-0.81]). Approximately one-half of discharged patients (47.5%) received a mental health assessment in the emergency department, and a similar percentage of discharged patients (52.4%) received a follow-up outpatient mental health visit within 30 days. Follow-up mental health care was directly related to recent outpatient mental health care (ARR, 2.30 [99% CI, 2.11-2.50]) and treatment in a state with Medicaid coverage of mental health clinic services (ARR, 1.13 [99% CI, 1.05-1.22]) and inversely related to African American (ARR, 0.86 [99% CI, 0.75-0.96]) and Hispanic (ARR, 0.86 [99% CI, 0.75-0.99]) race/ethnicity.

Conclusion

Most adult Medicaid beneficiaries who present for emergency care for deliberate self-harm are discharged to the community, and many do not receive emergency mental health assessments or follow-up outpatient mental health care.

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