Abstract

Strains on the mainstream mental health system can result in inaccessible services that force individuals with intellectual disabilities into the emergency room (ER) when in psychiatric crisis. The purpose of this study was to identify clinical and systemic issues surrounding emergency psychiatry services for people with intellectual disabilities, from the perspective of hospital staff. Focus groups were conducted with emergency psychiatry staff from 6 hospitals in Toronto, Canada. Hospital staff reported a lack of knowledge regarding intellectual disabilities and a shortage of available community resources. Hospital staff argued that caregivers need more community and respite support to feel better equipped to deal with the crisis before it escalates to the ER and that hospital staff feel ill prepared to provide the necessary care when the ER is the last resort. Input from hospital staff pointed to deficiencies in the system that lead caregivers to use the ER when other options have been exhausted. Both staff and caregivers need support and access to appropriate services if the system is to become more effective at serving the psychiatric needs of this complex population.

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