Amid Shortage of Psychiatric Beds, Mentally Ill Face Long Waits for Treatment
Across the country, a critical shortage of state psychiatric beds is forcing mentally ill patients with severe symptoms to be held in emergency rooms, hospitals and jails while they wait for a bed, sometimes for weeks.
Mental health advocates, attorneys and judges say the practice, known as psychiatric boarding, prevents patients from getting the care they need. Instead, such patients are sometimes strapped down or held in isolation, and often receive little or no mental health services.
Several states are moving to increase the number of beds, and to increase crisis services — to help keep a mentally ill person from spiraling out of self-control and ending up in emergency rooms and jails.
But the problem, which many blame on budget cuts and a shortage of psychiatrists and nurses, won’t be easy to solve. By one count, the nation needs an additional 123,300 psychiatric hospital beds.