The Bridgeway View

Editor Cory Storch, CEO

by Cory Storch

Imagine a friend or a loved one is having a psychiatric crisis. In New Jersey, they will most likely be transported by the police to an emergency room (ER) of a local hospital. There, they will be assessed by a Screener. If deemed to be a danger to self or others, they will be held at the ER until a bed is located in a locked psychiatric inpatient unit. This is called an involuntary hospital commitment. If not assessed as dangerous, a voluntary psychiatric hospitalization or discharge with a referral to outpatient services are options. The majority of people brought in to the ER for mental health screening are not involuntarily committed.

The problem with this approach is that a person’s psychiatric crisis can be worsened when the initial responders are the police, when ambulance transport is used and by ER protocols. Some police officers are yet to be trained in de-escalation techniques and even then, the uniform has a traumatic effect on many people going through a crisis. In the ER, one’s clothes can be taken away and replaced by a paper gown. ERs have locked areas reserved for psychiatric crises and there can be a backlog of people waiting for an involuntary commitment so overcrowding may occur. There may not be enough beds and then people have to sleep on chairs while they wait for help. All of these environmental influences are likely to have an effect on the mental state of the individual being assessed. And this increases the likelihood of involuntary hospitalization.

For some crises, it is clear to the first responders that there is a danger to self or others. Then it is appropriate to bring those individuals to a secure setting like a hospital ER.

But for the majority of people having an emotional crisis, a screener can go mobile to assess them where the crisis is happening. That’s usually in the home. If it will help to remove an individual to a less stressful place, the Living Room can be offered.

Unlike most Psychiatric Emergency Screening Services, the Somerset County center, operated by Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services, is located in the community, not a hospital ER. Bridgeway is about to open a Living Room in our Somerset County location at 282 E. Main St. in Somerville. It will replicate the Living Room in our Jersey City Crisis Intervention Services office. It is a home-like room in a community setting with couches and chairs, a television and stereo, snacks and beverages. And mental health practitioners are available as needed. If an individual just needs to chill out, he or she can do so. In our Somerville office, there is a Living Room for adults and one designed for children.

The Living Room is a person-centered, trauma informed approach to crisis intervention. It fills the gap between having to go to the ER and be in a chaotic environment for hours, and having to wait 4 – 6 weeks for an outpatient appointment . . . when someone is having a psychiatric crisis, they need to talk to someone now. The Living Room can be that place. A place to de-escalate. A place that facilitates recovery from what can be the worst day of your life.

The Living Rooms for Adults and Children at PESS, Psychiatric Emergency Screening Services

282 E. Main St., Somerville, NJ 08876  Call: 908-526-4100

September 23rd, 2017

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