Published : Tuesday, January 22, 2019 | 5:26 PM
A motion by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda L. Solis to develop a plan to increase the number of mental health hospital beds has been approved by the Board of Supervisors.
Currently, the California Department of State Hospitals (DSH) operates only five facilities in Atascadero, Coalinga, Metropolitan, Napa, and Patton with a total of 6,078 beds. The current wait time for a placement in these state hospitals is estimated to be a year or more, which leaves thousands of individuals who are in need of an inpatient hospital placement without access to the appropriate level of care.
“For far too long, mental health hospital beds have dwindled, leaving a significant number of patients and their families without access to appropriate care,” said Supervisor Barger. “As a result, we have seen increased prevalence of mental illness among the homeless population and those in our jails. We must explore all options to provide additional beds for those who are in need of care.”
The shortage of state mental hospital beds means the individuals in need of care and their families are forced to search for a placement elsewhere. According to leading mental health experts, the minimum number of beds required to appropriately meet the need is 50 public mental health beds per 100,000 individuals. In Los Angeles County, there are only 22.7 beds per 100,000 individuals, and California has only 17.05 beds per 100,000 individuals.
“Emergency rooms and jails are not the right setting for those experiencing a mental health crisis,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, who co-authored today’s motion. “LA County is the safety net for our residents, and this action will help us enable our most vulnerable residents to access the help they need and deserve.”
The motion directs the Department of Mental Health to work with the Chief Executive Officer to develop a plan that includes potential sites, funding options, patient populations, and all other pertinent details and report back to the Board within 120 days.
“The Department of Mental Health is working to right-size the County network of care in terms of volume and need,” said Dr. Jonathan Sherin, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. “We must examine patient acuity and ability to care for those with comorbid clinical conditions. Supervisor Barger’s motion will be very helpful in these efforts which, quite frankly, are long overdue.”