As the demand for mental health services has grown since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, many patients are struggling to find affordable options and are left languishing on waiting lists. In Clark County, the average wait time to see a psychiatrist can vary depending on the individual's needs and circumstances. If a person meets all the requirements to request a suspension and needs additional treatment, they may have to wait in the emergency room until an inpatient psychiatric treatment center opens. This could be at a state or private facility, usually in Reno or Sparks in the north or Las Vegas in the south.
In Lincoln County, agents are often responsible for transporting patients, or sometimes, if the person is medicated and not violent, a local ambulance will take them to the county line where a Clark County ambulance will pick them up and take them to a reception center. The hospital uses a telemedicine system known as VSee for state authorized clinical social workers to evaluate patients. They have also been trying to connect anyone who needs to stay in the hospital with Renown Health's psychiatrists in Reno, since nearly all of the state's psychiatrists are located in Clark and Washoe Counties. The average wait time to evaluate a person with homicidal or suicidal tendencies in King County tripled during the pandemic, reaching an average of 277 hours.
Jessica was looking for a therapist and a psychiatrist in Connecticut and after two weeks of intensive research she finally found one who was part of the network and recently began consulting with one who was not part of the network. Not only do patients have to be moved 116 miles from the Eureka County Jail to the Elko Hospital to obtain medical authorization to be suspended for mental health problems, but if they need medical treatment as an inpatient, they have to travel 116 miles back to the Eureka Jail, where they will wait in a detention cell until a bed in Reno allows them to travel 240 more miles. In those cases, a patient may sit in an emergency room for 72 hours or more waiting to be taken somewhere to get the treatment he needs; if he is violent, an agent may be assigned to care for him 24 hours a day until he is transferred. Hall has been working with the state to see if psychiatrists in the state can participate in some type of telemedicine program that allows hospitals to start administering needed medications while patients wait to receive additional treatment.
According to research published in Psychiatric Services, metropolitan areas that need a psychiatrist often have difficulty getting an appointment, regardless of ability to pay. Unanswered calls were returned just over a third of the time and response calls were more common in Boston than Houston. Approximately one in five psychiatrists was not accepting any new patients. Not all of the answers resulted in a connection to a psychiatrist's office since 16% of the numbers that appeared in the database were incorrect.