Emergency Rooms / EMTALA, Part 2

Emergency Department Obligations to Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities: Recent Developments in the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA)

Susan Stefan, J.D.

The Department of Health and Human Services has recently investigated a number of hospital emergency departments for either excluding individuals with psychiatric emergencies or failing to stabilize their emergency conditions. The most famous case, the Anmed case in South Carolina, has created a furor in hospital emergency departments nationwide. This presentation will discuss the conflicting perspectives on the meaning of “stabilization” and HHS’s EMTALA cases involving psychiatric patients since the Anmed case. It will look for advocacy opportunities in the most recent EMTALA actions and interpretations by HHS and suggest concrete ways for advocates to translate these events into improvements in their own local emergency departments.

  1. Participants will understand EMTALA’s stabilization mandate as it applies to psychiatric patients, and the conflicting interpretations of this mandate, including the current HHS interpretation of its requirements as they relate to patients who are boarding in the ED.

  2. Participants will be able to identify several recent patterns in HHS enforcement of EMTALA.

  3. Participants will become familiar with strategies to utilize recent interpretations of EMTALA to ensure that people with psychiatric disabilities are not discriminated against or kept without treatment in emergency department settings.