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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Emergency Department Visits by Older Adults with Mental Illness in North Carolina

  • Author(s): Hakenewerth, Anne M.
  • Tintinalli, Judith E.
  • Waller, Anna E.
  • Ising, Amy
  • et al.

Introduction: We analyzed emergency department (ED) visits by patients with mental health disorders (MHDs) in North Carolina from 2008-2010 to determine frequencies and characteristics of ED visits by older adults with MHDs.

Methods: We extracted ED visit data from the North Carolina Disease Event Tracking and Epidemiologic Collection Tool (NC DETECT). We defined mental health visits as visits with a mental health ICD-9-CM diagnostic code, and organized MHDs into clinically similar groups for analysis.

Results: Those ≥65 with MHDs accounted for 27.3% of all MHD ED visits, and 51.2% were admitted. The most common MHD diagnoses for this age group were psychosis, and stress/anxiety/depression.

Conclusion: Older adults with MHDs account for over one-quarter of ED patients with MHDs, and their numbers will continue to increase as the “boomer” population ages. We must anticipate and prepare for the MHD-related needs of the elderly.

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