Calif. Mental Health Clinics Aim To Offset Psychiatric Bed Shortage
Mental health urgent care centers are being established across California to help offset a shortage of psychiatric beds in the state and reduce the number of individuals with mental illnesses who seek care at hospitals or end up incarcerated, Kaiser Health News' "Capsules" reports (Gorman, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 8/28).
As of 2007, California had fewer than half of the national average of psychiatric beds per capita, according to a 2010 report from the California Mental Health Planning Council (California Healthline, 8/13).
Meanwhile, hospitals across the state experienced a 47% increase in patients with mental health problems from 2006 to 2011, compared with a 14% increase in patients overall, according to the California Hospital Association.
Details of Urgent Care Centers
Urgent care centers -- also known as crisis stabilization units -- aim to give residents a place to turn for mental health care, other than hospitals or emergency departments. Four new mental health urgent care clinics recently have opened in Los Angeles County, and plans for additional facilities are underway.
For example, the newly opened Martin Luther King, Jr. Mental Health Urgent Care Center in Los Angeles is open 24 hours per day and can provide treatment to as many as 16 adults and six adolescents. Treatment at the center can last up to one day, and patients receive:
- A psychiatric evaluation;
- Immediate care, including counseling and medication; and
- Referrals for longer-term care.
Staff at the center also will be able to place patients on 72-hour psychiatric holds if they are suspected of posing a threat to themselves or others.
However, Connie Dinh -- vice president of nursing services at Exodus Recovery, which runs the new center -- said it will not be able to accept patients who are incoherent, in need of emergency services or very aggressive.
Sheree Kruckenberg, vice president of behavioral health at CHA, said the urgent care units can increase residents' access to mental health care and reduce health care costs.
Kruckenberg said, "As we are trying to bend the cost curve, to me this is slam dunk."
However, Ron Honberg, policy director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said that the centers are "just one piece in a more complicated puzzle" and that providers should ensure that patients are linked to additional community services ("Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 8/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.