Hospitals that have emergency departments should call upon their “available resources” to screen and stabilize patients with mental health emergencies as required by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (“EMTALA”) according to recent statements by an analyst for CMS and an attorney with the Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) for the Department of Health and Human Services.

While speaking at the American College of Emergency Physicians annual meeting in Chicago, the CMS representative noted that EMTALA requires hospitals with emergency departments to provide a medical screening within the capabilities of the hospital by a person who is qualified to do the examination, which, if the hospital offers psychiatric services, would include a psychiatrist. While the initial screening must be done with medical personnel such as a psychiatrist, the CMS official stated that other mental health professionals may be qualified to assist in those examinations.