Why children are being held in hospital’s ER for days, even weeks

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 5:14 PM EDT
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OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - Why was a teen held at Ogdensburg’s Claxton-Hepburn emergency room for 38 days? Why were nine other children there with him? 7 News looks into the reasons behind it.

The teen going into St. Lawrence County Court spent more than a month in the ER. On day 38 he allegedly punched holes in a wall. They tried to restrain him. He allegedly punched out a maintenance worker.

His lawyer, Paula Lashomb, told the court this the day after: “It was abundantly clear to everyone that placement in an emergency room...with at least nine other children until Thursday this week, led to the situation yesterday.”

The teen was in the ER waiting for mental health treatment. So were nine other children.

There are only a few places in the state that offer it. They’re full.

Claxton-Hepburn said it couldn’t comment on the 16-year-old’s case. But, it acknowledged waits stating, “Sometimes patients experience extended stays in the emergency room while care providers search for availability of appropriate services at facilities with capacity.”

Claxton-Hepburn is the designated Emergency Mental Health Hospital for St. Lawrence County. But child advocates worry about the care children get there during extended stays.

This is what Lashomb told the court: “I learned my client was basically ‘hanging out’ in the Claxton-Hepburn emergency department, remaining there until charged yesterday by the Ogdensburg Police Department.”

It’s alleged the teen broke four bones in a maintenance man’s face. The fight spilled into the ER nursing station. People are left asking: why are children left there so long? And what’s the impact?

“It’s very traumatic for adults and even children to witness something like that,” said Courtney Fantone, Community Helping Individuals Living in Distress (CHILD) founder.

This situation at the ER came about as the number of foster children in St. Lawrence County surged. Some say that contributed to the shortage of places to care for children with critical needs.

The teen was charged with assault. Then charged with same for a prior incident. Tuesday the case was moved to family court, where consequences could be less severe.

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