Fiscal Crisis and Failed Mental Health Policies Taking a Toll
Implementation of Laura’s Law imperative in Psychiatric Hospital Bed Crisis
TUSTIN, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Mentally ill people in California are more likely to be imprisoned than hospitalized, according to a recent analysis conducted by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriff’s Association.
The recent study compared the most current data available on inmates and hospitals and estimated the odds of mentally ill Californians ending up in jail rather than receiving treatment in a medical facility are 3.2 to 1.
“Jails and prisons are not created to be de facto psychiatric hospitals and the situation is getting worse in California,” said Carla Jacobs, of the California Treatment Advocacy Coalition, “Some of our most in need citizens are suffering from both the state’s fiscal crisis and the effects of failed mental health public policies.”
As a result of cost-cutting efforts, many California counties have simply eliminated large numbers of hospital beds formally dedicated to mentally ill patients. In the past year, Sacramento County closed 50 acute care psychiatric beds. Three years ago San Francisco General Hospital had 87 acute care psychiatric beds; now it has 42. Orange County’s UCI Medical Center shut down 19 acute care psychiatric beds in the past year.
“This increasing hospital bed shortage affects everyone,” said John Rouse, M.D., a San Francisco emergency psychiatrist, “Untreated mental illness is overburdening medical and emergency rooms, endangering both mentally ill individuals and those with other medical disorders. Hospital emergency rooms are filled with untreated mentally ill patients who simply have nowhere else to go.”
According to the California Hospital Association, 25 of California’s 58 counties have no acute care adult in-patient psychiatric beds at all. The Association estimates the number of acute care psychiatric hospital beds declined by nearly 800 beds between the years 2005 and 2007 alone.
“California can solve its bed shortage crisis if it has the political will to do so,” said Randall Hagar, Government Affairs Director of the California Psychiatric Association, “In 2002, the California Legislature passed one of the nation’s most forwarding thinking statues – Laura’s Law -- to provide its severely mentally ill citizens community care to stop the revolving door of hospitalization and jailings.” Laura’s Law provides for assisted outpatient treatment that can act as a safety net by enhancing community-based services as acute care psychiatric hospital beds are reduced.
“Assisted Outpatient Treatment could reduce the use of hospital emergency rooms,” said Jacobs. “But so far, only two Boards of Supervisors among California’s 58 counties have passed a resolution to use it in their counties. If Laura’s Law is not implemented, more mentally ill people will be arrested and jailed; people will stack up in emergency rooms and remain untreated in the back bedrooms of family homes.”
California Treatment Advocacy Coalition
Carla Jacobs, 714-771-2321
KEYWORDS: United States North America California
INDUSTRY KEYWORDS: Health Hospitals Public Policy/Government Healthcare Reform Law Enforcement/Emergency Services Mental Health Other Policy Issues Public Policy State/Local