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Behavioral health is the study of the connection between behaviors and physical or mental health and well-being. It includes eating, drinking, exercising and other activities that impact physical or mental health. The term can be used to describe a range of services—from helping people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes manage their disease to treating patients suffering from addiction.

Patients with behavioral health conditions frequently turn to their local emergency departments for help. However, they cannot be admitted to inpatient facilities until a bed becomes available—a process that can take days.

Behavioral health includes several types of conditions, including substance use disorders and conditions that result from social, psychological, biochemical, genetic, or other factors.

The role of the emergency nurse in caring for behavioral health patients is unique and complex. There is not a defined set of diagnostic tests that can predict their care, and many facilities do not have the on-site services (such as a social work department) needed to provide appropriate care. The following resources are provided to assist emergency nurses in improving care for this patient population.

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