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I-TEAM: Mental health in the pandemic

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 7:00 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Mental health hospitalizations more than doubled during the pandemic in the Augusta region. The I-Team shares what they’ve uncovered on the issue.

Currently there are no local in-patient mental health facilities here in Augusta. There is one in Aiken through Aiken Regional Health. So that means if someone is having a mental health crisis in Richmond or Columbia Counties Gold Cross will respond and transfer the patient out of the area. Transports happen via ambulance if a patient is threatening self-harm or violence and those transports are how we measured the mental health crisis here at home.

Before the pandemic in 2019 Gold Cross said they made 208 total transports to mental health facilities. In 2020 that jumped to 424 transports an increase of 103 percent. Even more concerning Gold Cross has made 343 transports from January to March of this year. So more in the first quarter of 2021 to all of 2019.

The Vice President of Gold Cross says the entire system is feeling the strain.

“Obviously this pandemic has done a number on our healthcare system from the hospitals to the EMS to doctors office. Everyone is struggling everyone is burned out response times there are occasions when there may be longer response times. It could a multiple things,” said Stephen Vincent, Gold Cross Vice President.

Tomorrow the I-Team digs deeper into Gold Cross and it’s response time to 911 calls here in Augusta.

Even more concerning, Liz Owen’s discovered the commission admits they don’t have access to that internal data to track emergency response to see if people are being put at risk – we ask why and follow the money. The I-Team investigation will be aired tomorrow at 6 p.m.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health the suicide prevention hotline number is (800) 273-8255. For more local mental health resources visit: Mental Health America of Greater Augusta, Inc., Serenity Behavioral Health Systems, and Jones Behavioral Health.

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