BOSTON (CBS) – Many children have suffered terribly because of the COVID pandemic and for those who reach a crisis and need in-patient care, finding the appropriate treatment can be near impossible. Some kids are spending days or weeks inside hospital emergency rooms waiting for help.
Recently, after a Southbridge 10-year-old became unsafe, his parents brought him to a Worcester hospital. They were told there were no pediatric beds in psychiatric units available in the state.READ MORE: COVID Outbreak Reported In New Hampshire's Largest Jail
“It’s heartbreaking,” his mother said. “I’m looking at my son who is begging for help and there’s nothing that I can do.”
The parents say their special needs son waited 42 days with no therapy and no schooling.
“Having to watch hospital security have to respond and put him into four point restraints on his bed,” she said. “He’s not even sleeping in a real hospital bed. It’s kind of like an upside down playpen on the bed that he can’t open.”
The Southbridge family isn’t alone. A Brookline mom had a similar experience when she brought her young daughter in crisis to a Boston hospital. They too had to wait for a psychiatric bed and mental health help.
“This is absolutely heartbreaking for me to know that this is the only way for my child to get help, is through this broken system,” she said. “I completely regret bringing my child to the hospital.”READ MORE: Maine Hikes Tolls To Recoup Revenue Lost During Pandemic
Holding patients waiting for mental health help in emergency rooms or medical units is called boarding. The I-Team has learned at any one time there may be dozens of children boarding for weeks and months with no access to mental health services.
“Emergency rooms are not set up to handle these types of crises but they are the safest place for kids when they can not go home when it’s unsafe for them to go home,” said Dr. Ellen Braaten, the Director of the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program at Mass. General Hospital.
The Department of Health says it has put plans in place to add more psychiatric beds and reduce waiting time, saying emergency room boarding has gone up 200 – 400% during the pandemic.
State Representative Marjorie Decker wants more preventative care and filed a bill to create a database that would show in real time the number of kids waiting and where there are beds available.
“We absolutely have a crisis on our hands,” Rep. Decker said. “Our young people, our adolescents are experiencing a mental health pandemic. It is happening because we don’t have enough resources.”MORE NEWS: Body Of Missing Five-Year-Old Elijah Lewis Found In Abington
The state is offering hospitals financial incentives to increase psychiatric beds.