Barger calls for county plan to generate inpatient mental health hospital beds

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will consider a motion by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda L. Solis to develop a plan to increase the number of mental health hospital beds in the county.

“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.”

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.

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. However, when examining California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) data, there is a tremendous deficit in non-state options as well. According to OSHPD, the number of mental health hospitals (excluding state hospitals) fell from 181 in 1995 to 144 in 2016, a reduction of over 20 percent. The reduction in the number of facilities resulted in a loss of 2,651 non-state beds between 1995 and 2016. 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.

“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.”

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.

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