OAHHS Emergency Department Boarding Pilot Project

Across the nation, mental health has become one of the most talked about topics in health care. Legislators and health care professionals are trying to figure out how to best fit the needs of people who are struggling with their mental and behavioral health.

In Oregon, there are collaborations working together on how to treat these individuals in a way that avoids sitting in an emergency department without receiving the essential resources needed.


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The goal is to decrease the number of people who do not receive immediate attention due to being in an emergency department that lacks the right resources and placing options. This has become a problem all across the state, especially in rural areas where they lack essential behavioral health resources for admitting these patients, such as in-patient psychiatric beds. Boarding is when patients are kept on stretchers in emergency department hallways after being admitted, which causes the department to be overcrowded. This can lead to receiving below average care.

The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS) introduced SB 140 to be considered by the Oregon State Legislature. SB 140 is a measure that would establish an Emergency Department Boarding Pilot Project within Oregon Health Authority (OHA). This would give grants to hospitals to develop strategies to decrease the amount of boarding that happens, and instead treat people for a mental health crisis. $3.3 million could be taken from the general fund to provide grants to the project.

OAHHS is a nonprofit trade association that works with local and national government leaders, as well as health care organizations, to improve Oregon’s health care system and community.

SB 140 will also establish the Task Force on Emergency Department Boarding. The task force would submit their first recommendations to the Legislative Assembly by February 1, 2020 and final recommendations by September 15, 2020. The recommendations would include long term solutions, changes in state funding, and workforce development. 

The grant money would be used by hospitals to develop strategies on where to place people who are experiencing mental health crises, collect data on the success of these strategies, and ways to place these individuals somewhere other than an emergency department.

“Emergency departments are not set up to deliver mental health services,” said OAHHS policy director Danielle Meyerin a recent OAHHS press release. “It’s a safe environment, but it’s not a therapeutic one.” Meyer said those patients are not admitted to the main hospital because they lack the necessary medical diagnosis.

The bill hasn’t moved since it was referred to Ways and Means in April, but the OAHHS press release expresses their hope that the bill will pass.