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Behavioral health describes the connection between behaviors and the health and well-being of the body, mind and spirit. This would include how behaviors like eating habits, drinking or exercising impact physical or mental health.

Many people with behavioral health disorders have nowhere else to turn but their local emergency department. These patients not only use more resources than other patients, they are also forced to wait, sometimes for days, until a mental health facility becomes available.

The term behavioral health denotes various conditions caused by a disruption in an individual’s cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning. This includes disruptions resulting from substance use disorders and/or mental health disorders resulting from social, psychological, biochemical, genetic, or other factors such as infection or head trauma.

The emergency department presents some unique and complex issues for patients with behavioral health disorders. There is not a defined set of diagnostic tests that can be ordered to determine the course of their care, and many facilities do not have the on-site services necessary to provide appropriate care. The following resources are provided to assist emergency nurses in handling this patient population.

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