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Mental Health Patients on the Rise as Hospitals Face Budget Cuts

Hospitals are experiencing an increase in demand to provide care for individuals with mental health conditions. However, the influx of psychiatric patients coupled with budget cuts are further exacerbating already inundated emergency rooms. This further limits the number of hospital beds available to the public and places additional stress on hospital staff and administration as they care for their patients, the majority of which are uninsured. California currently has about 6,400 psychiatric beds, down from about 8,500 in 1996 according to the California Hospital Association. Additionally, state funding for mental health conditions fell by 16%, or nearly $587 million, between 2009 and 2011, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Currently, in L.A. County if hospitals do not have psychiatric services to treat patients, physicians will request that the County Mental Health Department send an evaluation team to transfer patients to psychiatric facilities. As of August 1, the evaluation teams respond to emergency department requests only when not needed by homes, schools, or in the community since the county is under no legal obligation to dispatch evaluation teams to hospitals. Hospitals have the option of hiring psychiatrists and contracting with private facilities to evaluate and transfer patients, but since most are uninsured or on Medi-Cal, contracts with private institutions would be highly expensive and an unlikely option.

Additional Information available here.

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