When William needed help, he was repeatedly turned away by hospitals
After reviving a patient who has overdosed, hospital emergency departments often miss an opportunity to engage the patient in substance use disorder treatment.
On the list of systems that failed us are emergency rooms and hospitals. Their approach to addicts was by and large ill-informed, judgmental and impatient. Catch and release, stabilize and send them on their way, a revolving door. To wit, our son had at least fifteen overdoses in 2012 and nineteen emergency transports to hospitals.
In these ERs, we as parents had to beg for psychiatric consults. If we got one it was always, “well, he’s not psychotic, doesn’t meet the criteria so get out of here.” What if only any one of four different hospital emergency rooms recognized that William’s repeated overdoses made him a danger to himself and entertained the notion of assessing him for a dual diagnosis?
In records I obtained, an ER attending doctor wrote that he believed William was at risk for overdosing on heroin but because he did not meet criteria for involuntary psychiatric hospitalization – the standard the hospital applied time and time again – he was discharged. This doctor called it correctly but sent him out anyway. All they do is give you a piece of paper with names of treatment places and shelters. This institutional indifference cost our son his life.
“I have spent a huge amount of time blaming myself, or my husband and me together, for failing our son. Knowledgeable people remind me repeatedly that it is the system that failed us and more so failed William.”