Mental Health Internship Continues to Rise | News

BOSTON — Hundreds of psychiatric patients are still “interned” in emergency rooms across the state awaiting beds in mental health facilities.

As of Monday, there were 750 patients — including 247 children — waiting for beds in psychiatric facilities across the state, according to the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association’s weekly report.

This is the highest number of pediatric patients since the association began collecting data last fall. While the number of residents fluctuates from week to week, it has increased by approximately 15% in the past month.

The North Boston area, which includes Lawrence General Hospital, Salem Hospital, Beverly Hospital and Anna Jacques Hospital in Newburyport, reported the third highest number of patients awaiting placement at 127 residents , last Monday, according to the report of the group.

Much of the problem has to do with understaffing, the report’s authors noted, with more than 350 psychiatric beds cut in recent years.

According to state and federal health care guidelines, hospitals cannot use psychiatric beds when there are not enough professional staff to oversee them.

The report’s authors noted that funding provided by Governor Charlie Baker’s administration and lawmakers will add 300 new inpatient psychiatric beds over the next year.

“But staffing for existing beds is currently insufficient, and fully staffing these new beds is already proving to be a significant barrier to opening new or expanded services,” they wrote. “Much more needs to be done to ensure that behavioral health patients have access to the care they need, in particular by increasing the number of behavioral health personnel and ensuring the sustainability of behavioral health services.”

Recent studies support claims that mental health issues – especially among young people – have soared during the pandemic amid lockdowns, business and school closures and restrictions on gatherings to prevent the spread of the virus. virus. Low-income communities and minorities have been disproportionately affected.

A coalition of groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, has issued a warning that the youth mental health crisis is a “national emergency”.

In Beacon Hill, heads of state are devoting a considerable amount of money and resources to expanding access to mental health services.

Last month, the Baker administration announced plans to create a new behavioral health hotline that will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and to set up community behavioral health centers that provide assessment and Same-day referral for treatment.

In December, Baker signed a $4 billion COVID-19 relief bill that diverts $400 million to expand behavioral health services and limit the boarding of psychiatric patients.

A proposal approved by the Senate in November aims to ease barriers to treatment by setting a floor on the rates insurers must pay for mental health services and requiring them to cover day psychiatric services and post-stabilization services. ’emergency.

The measure also aims to address the labor shortage that has contributed to the shortage of beds in psychiatric institutions. It would shorten the time it takes for newly hired mental health professionals to be approved by insurance networks to treat patients, among other changes.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group newspapers and websites. Email him at [email protected]

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