From: Dr. Jeff Ojemann, SVP and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ruth McDonald, VP and Associate Chief Medical Officer (Hospital Operations) and Dr. Tony Woodward, ED Medical Director

The ongoing youth mental health crisis is contributing to high patient volumes, high patient acuity and significant boarding in our Emergency Department (ED).

  1. Patients experiencing an emergency should come to the ED without hesitation.
  2. We have re-activated an Emergency Operations Center to ensure systemwide coordination as our leaders and teams address extreme capacity constraints in the ED with multiple, simultaneous approaches.
  3. The Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit (PBMU) currently has limited capacity due to ongoing facility improvements for patient safety. Patients who require a psychiatric inpatient admission will be referred to all appropriate inpatient pediatric psychiatric facilities in Washington State. 
  4. Please continue to identify and manage lower acuity complaints in outpatient settings to help maintain our limited capacity in the ED for higher acuity concerns.
  5. When sending your patient to the ED, please contact our Mission Control team at 206-987-8899 and alert families to potentially expect longer-than-normal wait times.

For More Information:  Resources that may help providers manage patients in primary or urgent care instead of sending to the ED:

  1. Emergency or Urgent Care Referral Guide
  2. For urgent medical care not related to mental and behavioral health, remind families to schedule an in-person or virtual Urgent Care appointment as early as possible to help them get timely access. They can use the UC online scheduling system or call the hospital’s main number at 206-987-2000.
  3. Algorithms and other PCP resources for 65+ conditions
  4. The Partnership Access Line (PAL) supports primary care providers (doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants) with questions about mental health care such as diagnostic clarification, medication adjustment or treatment planning. Our child and adolescent psychiatrists are available to consult during business hours.
  5. The Washington Mental Health Referral Service connects patients and families with evidence-supported outpatient mental health services in their community. This free, telephone-based referral service provides thorough mental health referrals for children and teens 17 and younger from across Washington.
  6. First Approach Skills Training (FAST) programs are designed to provide brief, evidence-based behavioral therapy for youth and families with common mental health concerns, in settings such as primary care clinics or schools where longer-term treatment is not typically provided. Program materials, as well as engagement and assessment tools for Mental Health Clinicians are available on the FAST Website.
  7. Seattle Children’s online mental health hub: provides resources for families and caregivers to reference for their child’s mental health and wellness. You can learn about common mental health problems in children and teens, how to recognize the signs of a problem and crisis, and learn how to help your child or teen as well as what services are available.
  8. Family Resource Center – Child Mind Institute: provides information families and caregivers to help support children who are struggling with mental health, behavior or learning challenges.
  9. Strategies for Clinical Settings for Youth Suicide Prevention ( provides a clinical pathway for addressing suicide prevention in pediatric practice.
  10. Mental Health Practice Tools and Resources ( provides resources to help providers promote healthy mental development and address mental health concerns.