News 4 Investigates has learned the New York State Department of Health is investigating staffing complaints at ECMC’s psychiatric emergency room known as CPEP.

The investigation comes one day after a viral video on the TikTok page for the New York State Nurses Association, which showed union members confronting ECMC administrators on staffing shortages. One ECMC registered nurse said on the video that she had to care for about 50 patients during part of her recent shift.

The union and ECMC are in the middle of contract negotiations.

In addition, News 4 Investigates has been digging into the issue for months after getting numerous complaints from patients about their experiences at CPEP, which is the only 24-hour psychiatric emergency facility in the region with a team of mental health workers that offer an array of services, along with referrals, extended observation beds and mobile outreach.

ECMC CPEP is one of the busiest around-the-clock comprehensive emergency psychiatrics facilities in the state, serving some 13,000 patients annually.

News 4 Investigates interviewed over a dozen patients who gave disturbing accounts of their CPEP experiences, along with mental health advocates, who confirmed they, too, have gotten similar reports from patients of CPEP.

Advocates sounded a call for action, saying the mental health system in the region needs more attention and funding.

A News 4 Investigates series on the state of mental health in the region begins next week.

ECMC nurses said CPEP has been understaffed for years and accused administrators of not having any plan to address the shortages.

ECMC disputed the allegation that administrators have ignored the concerns and labeled the comment made on the TikTok video about staffing ratios as “misinformation.”

In a statement released Thursday night, ECMC said CPEP continues to grapple with high patient volumes and inadequate reimbursements for services.

“Due to our inability to discharge patients to state-supported programs, coupled with inadequate Medicaid reimbursements, ECMC continues to experience high patient volume challenges in our Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP),” ECMC said. “As we work through these community dynamics, we are working with our NYSNA representatives to resolve these challenges, which include filling 12 current open nursing positions. We have 7 new CPEP nurses starting in the unit, with more nurses soon coming on board.”

Dan Telvock is an award-winning investigative producer and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

Luke Moretti is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2002. See more of his work here.