Study Explores Pediatric ER Visits Attributed to Contact with Law Enforcement

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By Elizabeth Miller 

When young people go to the Emergency Room as a result of interactions with police, hospitals tag those cases as “Injuries due to legal interventions".  A new study authored by several pediatric and emergency medicine doctors, including four from Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, looks at the demographics and cost of those visits.  

Between 2008 and 2010, kids under age 18 visited Emergency Departments around the country more than 15000 times after contact with law enforcement.  Those visits cost more than $16 million dollars, and Medicaid paid more than 40 percent of the costs.  More than two thirds of those young people came from low income neighborhoods.  Those are among the findings of a study being presented Sunday at the American Academy of Pediatrics National conference.

The idea for the study came from another University Hospital doctor, who helped author a similar study analyzing visits to the ER by adults instead of children.  University Hospital's Dr. Alexandre Rotta helped author the report.  He says the next step is to localize the national study and focus on areas like Northeast Ohio.  "This is something that happens in our backyard, and I think the first step was to identify the magnitude of this issue and the human and financial cost attached to it," said Rotta.  

"I think for future research, we will be delving into a much more granular level at what’s happening locally."

According to the study, the vast majority of the injuries were the result of “manhandling” or “blows.”  Rotta points out that the analysis is not meant to pass judgement on law enforcement, and it doesn’t look at excessive use of force.      

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