State Has Shortage of Inpatient Beds for Psychiatric Patients, Study Finds
The number of psychiatric beds available for children and adults in California is "woeful[ly]" low, a preliminary report by the California Institute for Mental Health finds. The Contra Costa Times reports that the number of psychiatric beds in California hospitals has declined throughout the past decade, although the availability varies from region to region. Concerned about the shortages, county mental health directors commissioned the study to examine the situation and its possible causes. Elizabeth Stallings, COO for John Muir-Mt. Diablo Medical Pavilion, a behavioral health care facility, said that money is the "main problem." She stated that in the 1980s, psychiatric hospitals made profits, so a "few larger corporations" opened "scores" of facilities, and communities became dependent on these for-profit groups for mental health services. She added that although the cost of providing psychiatric treatment and maintaining psychiatric units has risen, reimbursements from public and private insurers have "remained flat," causing corporations to pull out of markets and leave communities "holding the bag." Sandra Naylor Goodwin, author of the new study, the complete version of which is expected in two weeks, added that low reimbursements have caused some not-for-profit hospitals to close and others to reduce the size of their psychiatric units. Stallings said that some insurers are considering increasing reimbursements for psychiatric services, but added that she "knows of no hospitals planning to increase the number of beds or open new facilities." Goodwin concurred, stating that although some projects in the report may help ease the shortage, none will provide "immediate solutions" (Morris, Contra Costa Times, 6/11).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.