Report: N.H. mental health beds full because there are not enough community treatment options
One patient in a New Hampshire psychiatric ward this winter had been waiting 180 days to find an appropriate place to go after being declared ready to leave.
Children ready to leave the hospital after being treated for mental illness waited on average eight days. Elderly patients waited on average 21 days, clinically ready to go back to their communities but unable to leave the hospital, often because they had no place to live.
More than 70 percent of patients surveyed had nowhere to live after leaving the hospital.
The data come from a report released Tuesday by the Foundation for Healthy Communities, looking at the status of 59 patients in the state’s 10 hospitals with inpatient behavioral health services, between Nov. 1, 2013, and Feb. 28.
New Hampshire’s mental health system has been declared in crisis, with patients in need of care lingering for days in emergency rooms because there isn’t space in behavioral health units.
According to the foundation’s report, psychiatric units in hospitals across the state can’t admit new patients because they are full of patients who could be discharged to the community but are instead held for days, weeks and in some cases, months.
The bottleneck is largely due to a lack of appropriate community-based housing when patients have completed their course of care, the report’s authors say.
The study also found that inpatient care can in some cases cost 10 times as much as community-based treatment.
“I was shocked, really,” foundation Executive Director Shawn LaFrance said. “I knew the difference would be wide, but I didn’t expect it to be that dramatic. It’s just one of those things where people have to look at these resources and how much is being spent, and for some investment in the supportive housing, we’ll not be keeping people in hospitals. That’s better care for the person, a better place to live and a whole lot less expensive for all of us.”
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)