Report: Calif. Hospitals Lack Beds for Those With Mental Illnesses
California lacks a sufficient amount of psychiatric beds for individuals with severe mental health issues, according to a report released last week by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs' Association, HealthyCal reports.
According to the report, 26 of the 58 counties in California have no inpatient psychiatric beds available.
Of the counties that do have psychiatric beds, many often are reserved for individuals who have been charged with crimes.
For example, there are a combined 4,652 beds available at Atascadero, Metropolitan, Napa and Patton state hospitals. However, 88% of the beds at those facilities are reserved exclusively for individuals with mental illnesses who have been charged with crimes. Another state hospital in Coalinga almost exclusively houses individuals who have been charged with sexually violent crimes, researchers found.
Although the Affordable Care Act has expanded health coverage for individuals with mental health issues, the law does not require states to have a specific number of inpatient psychiatric beds, HealthyCal reports (Guzik, HealthyCal, 4/15).
Mentally Ill Individuals End Up Imprisoned
Because of a lack of inpatient psychiatric beds available in California, many individuals with mental illness end up in prison or jail, according to the report (Treatment Advocacy Center/National Sheriffs' Association report, 4/8).
There are more than 33,000 inmates with mental illnesses in California, compared with fewer than 6,000 patients with mental illnesses who are housed in five state psychiatric hospitals, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Thompson, AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/14).
Researchers found that the Los Angeles County Jail could be considered the largest "mental institution" in California and one of the largest psychiatric facilities in the country. In addition, the report found that:
- 16% of inmates in Fresno County require antipsychotic medications;
- 25% to 30% of inmates in Santa Barbara County take antipsychotic medications; and
- 30% of inmates in Sonoma County require mental health supervision.
The report recommends that California expand the use of assisted outpatient treatment through Laura's Law, a state law that allows courts to require treatment for residents with severe mental health conditions (Treatment Advocacy Center/National Sheriffs' Association report, 4/8).
Mental Health Courts Work To Address Problem
In related news, 24 California counties have created mental health courts to address the growing number of inmates with mental illnesses and provide treatment and therapeutic services for such individuals, HealthyCal reports.
For example, individuals can qualify for Monterey County's mental health court -- called the Creating New Choices Program -- if they have been diagnosed with:
- Bipolar disorder;
- Schizophrenia; or
- Schizoaffective disorder.
The San Francisco County Superior Court has found that individuals who participate in its mental health court are 26% less likely to commit a new crime within 18 months after starting the program. In addition, participants are 55% less likely to commit a violent crime.
For some counties, implementing a mental health court has reduced costs. For instance, the Orange County Superior Court of California Collaborative Courts reported that it saved $7.4 million since its mental health court was launched in 2002.
However, individuals can be booted from mental health court programs and sent to jail if they:
- Do not comply with the rules of the program;
- Miss drug tests; or
- Test positive for drugs (Graebner, HealthyCal, 4/15).