Mental health crisis at the door of hospitals | Philly Health Insider

This week, we explain how hospitals can become unsafe for mentally ill patients and give you an update on Philly’s behavioral health commissioner.

Later in this edition, we take a road trip through the Acela Corridor featuring NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers (with some trivia!).

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Inquirer health reporters Abraham Gutman and Aubrey Whelan, @abrahamgutman i @aubreywhelan.

One in three safety violations at Philly-area hospitals involves a patient with a mental illness, a pattern that emerged when our colleague Sarah Gantz began tracking citations from Pennsylvania hospitals from 2023.

Some of the most serious violations:

Inspection reports point to inadequate staffing, a lack of proper emergency protocols and insufficient training as part of the problem.

In recent years, more patients with behavioral health needs have been turning to hospitals in the Philadelphia area. And places like the loud, shiny, privacy-less emergency department are really the worst place for them, Deborah Cunningham, vice president of behavioral health at Main Line Health, told Sarah.

So what can hospitals do?

Main Line Health has doubled the number of inpatient behavioral health beds, and Crozer-Chester opened a new outpatient center.

A patient advocate wants hospitals to give their staff simulation training to help them understand what a patient in crisis is experiencing.

See Sarah’s story for details on efforts to prevent these security breaches from happening again.

The latest news to pay attention to

  1. New Jersey proposes new rule to better protect patients from sexual misconduct by doctors. The rule would require doctors to inform patients of their right to have another medical professional present during sensitive exams, explains Wendy Ruderman.

  2. New year, new CEO. Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic CEO James Woodward will retire in January after six years at the helm of the systems, Harold Brubaker reports.

  3. Chinese biotech manufacturers like WuXi AppTec have forged close relationships with American start-ups and universities and have hired hundreds locally. But as Congress seeks to crack down on China’s efforts to dominate biotech, Philly-area business partners are looking for alternatives to take their ideas from the lab to the marketplace.

  4. You don’t usually find a half-acre farm next to a hospital helipad like the Delema G. Deaver Wellness Farm on the campus of Lankenau Medical Center. Aubrey took an informational tour of the farm that supplies about 4,000 pounds of fresh produce a year to food insecure patients.

This week’s issue: 13.

That’s how many NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers you’ll pass if you drive down I-95 from Boston to DC. That includes three centers in Philly, which started last week with just two.

The The National Cancer Institute awarded its top designation to Jeffersons Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, which joins Penns Abramson Center and Temples Fox Chase Cancer Center with the comprehensive distinction. Philadelphia now has more than any other US city except New York, which has four.

These 13 comprehensive cancer centers along the 400-mile stretch between Boston and DC add up to nearly a quarter of the nations total of 57 centers. By comparison, Texas has three and California has eight.

If we move a little further away, the count increases even more. We can add another comprehensive center in New Hampshire, two in Virginia and one more in Pittsburgh. (Shut up, yinzers, we’ve got more. Go Birds!)

Fun Fact: With the Jeffs Center upgrade, Sidney Kimmel is the only person in the United States to have two comprehensive cancer centers named after him. Can you guess where the second one is? (Find the aanswer at the end of the newsletter.)

State inspectors visited Penn Presbyterian Medical Center once between August and January and found no problems.

When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras, goes the old medical adage.

Recently, a patient with low back pain forced internist Jeffrey Millstein to reconsider these heuristics. The patient suffered from an incredibly common symptom, but her pain was actually caused by an uncommon condition: a mass involving her spine.

Millstein listened to her concerns, noted her constant pain, and ordered an MRI that detected the growth.

As clinicians, we need to keep our antennae up, Penn Primary Care’s regional medical director wrote in an expert opinion, sharing what he’s learned about the lessons for doctors and patients from these encounters with rare problems. .

making moves

A few weeks ago, we told you that Jill Bowen, Philadelphia’s behavioral health commissioner, quit a gig in Vermont.

The city has announced his replacement, at least for now.

Marquita Williams will serve as interim commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services. Williams has been with DBHIDS and Community Behavioral Health for more than a decade, most recently as Bowen’s Senior Executive Advisor.

A city spokesman told us there will be a national search for a permanent commissioner.


In recent years there has been concern that taking Tylenol during pregnancy increases the risk of autism, ADHD or other intellectual disabilities for the child. This notion was even cited in lawsuits against drug manufacturers.

Is there a link between painkillers and autism? The answer appears to be no, according to new research from Drexel University and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute. (Home of the Nobel prize for medicine!)

What’s great about this new JAMA study is that it used a large Swedish database that had information on siblings, allowing for both nature and nurture to be statistically controlled.

The researchers analyzed data from 2.5 million children born between 1995 and 2019 in Sweden. The researchers found that when siblings were compared, there was no association between drug use and neurodevelopmental disorders.

That’s a wrap for us this week! Here’s hoping the Sixers are still in the playoffs the next time they show up in your inbox. Speaking of spelling people, how do you feel about watching Joel Embiid play? Are you seeing signs of his recovery or injury that we’re missing? Eager viewers want to know.

(Oh, and we didn’t forget to give you an answer to our cancer center trivia question: The second center named after Sidney Kimmels is the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.)

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