Christina Jewett of Kaiser Health News reports at The Washington Post: (h/t Judith Ursitti)
Teenagers and young adults with severe autism are spending weeks or even months in emergency rooms and acute-care hospitals because of a lack of community treatment programs able to deal with their outbursts, according to interviews with parents, advocates and physicians from Maine to California as well as federal and state data.
These young people — who may shout for hours, bang their heads on walls or lash out violently at home — are taken to the hospital after community social services and programs fall short and families call 911 for help. Once there, they sometimes are sedated or restrained for long periods as they wait for beds in specialized facilities or return home once families recover from the crisis or find additional support.
While the data on extended hospital stays are limited, national numbers on people with an autism diagnosis who were seen in hospital ERs nearly doubled over five years to 159,517 in 2014, according to the latest figures from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The total admitted for a behavioral or medical issues also nearly doubled, to 26,811 in 2014.
Private insurance data underscore the concerns. In a study published in February in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, researchers from Pennsylvania State University found that young people ages 12 to 21 with autism are four times likelier to go to the emergency room than peers without autism. They also are 3½ times more likely to be admitted to a hospital floor — at which point they stay in the hospital nearly 30 percent longer.
The analysis, based on a sample of 87,000 insurance claims, also showed that older adolescents with autism are in the ER more than their younger counterparts. The percentage of their visits for a mental-health crisis almost doubled from 2005 to 2013.