Mass. law­mak­ers dis­cuss be­hav­ioral healthcare cri­sis

Modern Healthcare - - REGIONAL NEWS - —An­dis Robeznieks

Law­mak­ers in Mas­sachusetts are de­bat­ing bills that seek to re­duce board­ing of be­hav­ioral health pa­tients in hos­pi­tal emer­gency de­part­ments and to keep them from be­ing housed in cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties.

Two pro­pos­als dis­cussed at a joint House-Se­nate hear­ing last week stemmed from rec­om­men­da­tions of­fered in a re­port from a Men­tal Health Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee cre­ated by the Mas­sachusetts Leg­is­la­ture in 2012, which ex­panded its scope in 2013. That year, then-Gov. De­val Pa­trick closed 124 of the 169 beds at Taun­ton (Mass.) State Hos­pi­tal. The ad­min­is­tra­tion said the goal was to rein­vest in com­mu­nity-based men­tal health ser­vices.

Mas­sachusetts Nurses As­so­ci­a­tion spokesman David Schild­meier said the move ag­gra­vated an on­go­ing men­tal health cri­sis in the state, with “peo­ple wait­ing for days and months for a bed.”

One mea­sure in­cludes a two-year pi­lot pro­gram to cre­ate a tem­po­rary fa­cil­ity at the Taun­ton hos­pi­tal where men­tal-health pa­tients be­ing boarded in an ED can re­main un­til a be­hav­ioral-health bed can be found. The other bill calls for the state men­tal health depart­ment to cre­ate two units for “dif­fi­cult-to-man­age” pa­tients.

While most pa­tients un­der­go­ing treat­ment for be­hav­ioral-health is­sues are not vi­o­lent, Schild­meier said a mi­nor­ity are, and they are fre­quently “shifted from fa­cil­ity to fa­cil­ity, wreak­ing havoc wher­ever they go.” The MNA noted that those pa­tients of­ten end up be­ing “housed in the cor­rec­tions sys­tem where their con­di­tions go un­treated or are ex­ac­er­bated.”

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