Choosing the Right Facility

How to find a hospital that works for your loved one or yourself

When you or a loved one is severely depressed or anxious and in need of suicide protection, finding the right healthcare facility is crucial. Inpatient psychiatric care facilities often require overnight stays, typically between 8-10 days. You will need to trust the medical professionals to provide quality care. Choosing a facility can literally become a life or death decision.

Most patients voluntarily are admitted to psychiatric hospitals, but some patients do require involuntary commitment. A court may decide the patient is at a dangerous risk for suicide. The exact language differs from state to state, but the concept is that if the patient is not hospitalized and properly protected, it is likely the patient will attempt suicide. While most people use whichever hospital is closest or go by a referral, it's wise to research a facility to find a psychiatric hospital that fits your needs and provides quality care.

What to look for in researching a healthcare facility

The following are factors you may want to consider in choosing a psychiatric hospital:

  • Location: A facility close to relatives and friends allows for more frequent visitation.
  • Services: Consider the type of care provided by the hospital to ensure a good fit for the patient. Many psychiatric hospitals are equipped to provide treatment for a variety of disorders, including psychiatric, addictive and behavioral. Some hospitals will offer specialized treatment in areas such as addiction, eating disorders, or anger management. Other facilities may not be able to treat physical problems.
  • Quality: Find out about the hospital's reputation. Ask friends, family and other people you know to see if they have experience with the facilities you are considering.
  • Educating hospital staff: It is important for a family member to be a part of the treatment team. You need to make sure the hospital staff is fully aware of the concerns you have with your loved one's safety. What has your loved one said about suicide? What acts which seem suicidal to you have you observed in your loved one? In general, it is the responsibility of the hospital to ask you whether you have seen anything that suggests possible suicide intent. After such a general inquiry, specific questions such as the following may be useful: Has your loved one made any comments about being "better off dead?"; Has he/she joked about killing himself/herself?; Have there been any statements about "things being better soon?"; Does your loved one have any potential weapons available, such as guns or knives?; Has your loved one ever tried to hurt himself/herself before, even in small ways like taking a few pills too many?; Has he/she appeared depressed or tearful?; Is he/she the spending more time alone than usual? Often suicidal patients minimize their symptoms and suicidal thoughts. You need to make sure the hospital knows what you know. Make sure the staff is documenting your concerns...make the staff show you what they have written about what you have related to them. It is the hospital's responsibility to make inquiries of family members to learn as much as they can about suicidal issues, but often this does not happen. Make it happen.
  • Confidentiality: In an emergency situation where a loved one is suicidal, it is critical to for hospital staff to talk with significant others before making a decision on safety. If there are serious concerns about safety, they outweigh confidentiality. You should try to get your loved one to waive confidentiality. You need to know how well your loved one is being protected.
  • Suicide observation level: Given that knowing the exact moment a patient may suicide is difficult at best and noting that suicides often occur while patients are placed on 15-minute checks, we strongly recommend the avoidance of its use for suicidal patients. We recommend the use of close observation (one certified observer to one or more patients), one-to-one observation (one certified observer to one patient), or observation by skilled nursing staff when a patient must be within an arm's reach of the observer. You should insist that your loved one is being properly protected. Determine your loved one's level of observation. Do not let hospital employees or psychiatrists intimidate you. If your loved one is suicidal 15-minute checks will not protect your loved one.
  • Other issues: You may need to determine which hospitals your insurance will cover. Without insurance, you may need to rely on a state-run psychiatric hospital. Keep in mind that negligence can occur at private hospitals as well as state-run facilities, just as you can find quality care at both private and public hospitals.

An attorney may be able to help you

If you lost a loved one as a result of medical malpractice at a psychiatric hospital or other healthcare facility, contact the Law Offices of Skip Simpson for a free consultation. Attorney Simpson is a passionate and experienced lawyer who is committed to suicide prevention.

We realize we can't bring back a loved one after such a tragedy. But your actions may help to save the lives of others experiencing the same suffering.

Break the cycle. Contact a compassionate attorney who cares about people and demands justice. Contact the Law Offices of Skip Simpson.