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Nearly 17% of ER visits are for mental health issues, study finds

A new study has found nearly 17 percent of emergency room visits in the U.S. are related to behavioral health problems, and that a number of other avoidable issues take up an inordinate amount of ER resources, according to the International Journal for Quality in Health Care.

The other most preventable ER visits are those related to dental problems and alcohol abuse. After reviewing 424 million ER visits nationwide between 2005 and 2011, researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found 14 million of those visitors were sent home after it was found there were no possible care options, meaning the visits were entirely avoidable.

The study's lead author, Renee Hsia, MD, believes these visits are the result of a lack of access to mental health, dental and addiction treatment services, which must be addressed by legislators.

"Policy initiatives could alleviate pressure on emergency departments by addressing gaps in dental and mental health care in the U.S., which could provide treatment to this group of visitors at a lower cost elsewhere," Dr. Hsia said.

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