(June 4, 2012) Bloomberg News today published a report on the trend in hospital bed elimination with grist for both hope and despair.
The hopeful part: reporter Tom Moroney cites several examples of aggressive state hospital closure plans being moderated because of public outcry and opposition from stakeholders ("Sleeping in Vermont dumpster shows psychiatric cuts' cost").
“It’s gone too far,” the president of the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems said about the trend of eliminating hospital beds.
The desperate part: Treatment in the meantime is disintegrating to the detriment of patients, families and health workers.
In Vermont – which has been without a state hospital since Tropical Storm Irene flooded its only facility last year – patients in psychiatric crisis reportedly are spending as long as two days handcuffed to beds in emergency rooms because there is no place to hospitalize them. “Dozens” of people who once would have been hospitalized are being turned away without treatment or admitted to hospitals distant from their families – even out of state. Calls to law enforcement involving mental health issues are skyrocketing.
None of this comes as any surprise to those of us who live and work with untreated severe mental illness, but it’s a timely reminder that when hospital beds vanish, barriers to treatment rise. Advocates fighting hospital closures in their own states may find the Bloomberg report a helpful tool for illustrating the cost of closing state hospitals.
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