Yesterday on Monday, May 16, 2022, in West Palm Beach Florida, the Channel 12 News I-Team shared the tragic story of a how a mental health patient, Zachary Taylor Anderson, was shot by police in an emergency department after charging them with a pair of scissors [The hunt to find mental health resources in Florida | WPEC (cbs12.com)].
Per Channel 12 News, Mr. Anderson had been in the emergency department for over 24 hours, as there was nowhere to send him for acute inpatient treatment. Sadly, this is not a new problem. As a mental health nurse whose job it was to triage adult patients for admission to a mental health unit, I have seen countless patients wait in emergency departments for lengthy periods of time– sometimes up to 72 hours. These patients, while being held in the emergency department, were kept under one-to-one observation (unless they were not a current threat to themselves or others). Mental health patients in the emergency room waiting for inpatient beds should not have access to their personal belongings or be kept in areas where they have access to potentially dangerous items. They should also be medicated, when needed, when they are no longer able to control their dangerous behaviors and other interventions have failed. As a last resort, restraints should be applied until the patient is able to control their behavior.
As a board-certified psychiatric mental health nurse, the first thing that came to my mind while watching this news broadcast was that this casualty, in my opinion, could have been prevented had appropriate interventions been initiated BEFORE Mr. Anderson’s behavior escalated out of control.
I am curious about the specifics regarding staffing ratios at the time this occurred, the facility’s policies, Anderson’s presenting symptoms, and the care he was (or was not) provided.
What is your opinion? Could the emergency department staff be at fault? What information would you need to form your opinion?
As always, I welcome reader comments and feedback. Let me hear from you!
I would like to share my deepest sympathy for Anderson’s family, and everyone traumatized by this devastating event.