Drop in Psychiatric Hospital Beds Cuts Mental Health Access in Calif.
In recent years, a sharp drop in the number of hospital beds in California dedicated to treating individuals with psychiatric emergencies has kept some patients from receiving needed mental health care, KQED's "State of Health" reports.
Details of Shortage
Over the past 15 years, a reform movement to shift mental health treatment to community-based settings has resulted in the closure of many psychiatric facilities, according to "State of Health."
In California, about 4,000 hospital beds reserved for psychiatric emergencies were removed. Some areas in the state -- such as rural counties -- were left with no facilities offering inpatient mental health services.
Meanwhile, state officials have moved mental health funding away from inpatient facilities and directed more money toward outpatient treatment.
"State of Health" reports that the shortage of beds for psychiatric emergencies also affects:
- Paramedics, who often have to transport patients with mental health issues to far-away facilities; and
- Law enforcement officers, who must accompany paramedics if such patients are potentially dangerous (Korry, "State of Health," KQED, 12/16).
State Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said, "What's lacking in the system is the crisis beds that allow somebody to get stable and the people who can help somebody get from those settings to a place where they can begin to get help."
Shortage of Psychiatric Beds for Children
The shortage of beds for psychiatric emergencies is even more acute among children, with only 100 of such beds in the state reserved for individuals age 12 and under.
The majority of psychiatric beds reserved for children are in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles basin, while most of the state's 58 counties have no such beds for children.
As a result, children experiencing psychiatric emergencies often can be:
- Stalled in the emergency department; or
- Sent to far-away facilities where parents are unable to visit or take part in family therapy (Korry, "State of Health," KQED, 12/17).
More Psychiatric Services Coming
The Investment in Mental Health Wellness Act -- sponsored by Steinberg -- will provide $206 million for:
- 2,000 additional crisis stabilization beds;
- Mobile response teams; and
- 600 new triage workers.