Characteristics Related to Having Pediatric Mental Healthcare Policies in Emergency Departments

Mother holding her infant while talking to a doctor

Pediatric Emergency Care has published a new studyexternal icon that describes factors related to whether U.S. emergency departments (EDs) have policies in place to care for children with mental health and social concerns. As a result of this study, scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and partner organizations found that less than half (46.2%) of EDs had such a policy. Policies provide structure during and after emergencies, such as weather-related disasters, when EDs are critical for children to get immediate medical and mental health services. This study showed that having nurse and pediatric emergency care coordinators (PECCs) is related to having a pediatric mental healthcare policy.  This work complements previous analyses using National Pediatric Readiness Projectexternal icon (NPRP) data showing PECCs are linked with having increased overall pediatric readiness. The findings support inclusion of children’s mental health policies in future ED quality improvement efforts.

You can read the scientific summary of the article hereexternal icon.

About this Study

For this study, researchers used data from the 2013 NPRP assessment: a 55-question web-based survey. Nurse managers from 4,146 EDs completed the survey, in which they were asked where their hospital was located and how many pediatric patients were seen in their EDs in the past year. They were also asked if their EDs had

  • Pediatric Emergency Care Coordinator;
  • Policies for how to care for children with social and mental health issues;
  • Policies that address child maltreatment;
  • Policies for family-centered care; and
  • Guidelines for transfer of children with mental health and social needs.

Main Findings from the Study

This study found that whether an ED had a pediatric mental healthcare policy varied by

  • Geographic location
    • Remote, rural, and suburban areas were less likely to have a pediatric mental healthcare policy compared to urban areas.
    • EDs in areas with more children living in poverty were more likely to have a pediatric mental healthcare policy than EDs in areas with fewer numbers of children living in poverty.
  • Number of pediatric patients
    • Hospitals with higher numbers of pediatric patients were more like to have a pediatric mental healthcare policy than those with lower numbers.
  • Presence of a PECC
    • EDs with both a nurse and physician PECC were more likely to have a pediatric mental healthcare policy compared to EDs that had either a single nurse or physician PECC or EDs with neither a nurse nor physician PECC.
  • Presence of other policies and guidelines
    • EDs with policies that address child maltreatment, promote family-centered care, and address the transfer of children with mental health and social issues were more likely to have a pediatric mental healthcare policy than those without these policies.

References

Characteristics Associated With Presence of Pediatric Mental Health Care Policies in Emergency Departments.
Cree RA, So M, Franks JL, Richards RM, Leeb R, Hashikawa A, Krug S, Ludwig L, Olson LM.
Pediatric Emergency Care. November 13, 2019.

CDC is working to support pediatric mental health in the context of emergency preparedness and response. Learn more about the activities of CDC’s Children’s Preparedness Unit.