Breaking News
May 24, 2018 - Robust Immune Responses for Herpes Zoster Subunit Vaccine
May 24, 2018 - Optical Coherence Tomography | Texas Heart Institute
May 24, 2018 - Type 2 diabetes slowly rising in Auckland kids – Pacific and Māori have highest rates
May 24, 2018 - Study explores brain chemistry of alcohol exposure in people with family history of AUD
May 24, 2018 - Study shows AVATS procedure as safe, effective alternative for patients deemed ‘inoperable’
May 24, 2018 - Comparative Analysis of a Complex Monoclonal Antibody
May 24, 2018 - Penn investigators discover source of immune molecule involved in nasal polyps, asthma
May 24, 2018 - Berries and Grapes May Keep You Breathin’ Easy
May 24, 2018 - Access and utilization of dental services for Medicaid children 2013-2015
May 23, 2018 - New research raises concern about rate of postpartum hemorrhage
May 23, 2018 - Researchers create new modeling framework that takes a zoonotic perspective on Ebola
May 23, 2018 - Study compares bacteria in humans to the laboratory
May 23, 2018 - Frequent sauna bathing reduces risk of stroke
May 23, 2018 - Landmark trial to test implantable defibrillator in diabetic patients with history of heart attack
May 23, 2018 - Vitamin C consumption may reduce harm to baby’s lungs due to smoking during pregnancy
May 23, 2018 - Researchers complete genomic map of chronic lymphocytic leukemia
May 23, 2018 - Medical students take to the streets to learn about real world problems at the root of poor health
May 23, 2018 - New efforts to curb high blood pressure in Asia
May 23, 2018 - Malaria-causing parasite seeks refuge inside the liver to replicate and survive
May 23, 2018 - Slower rates of stimulation may be more effective in brain therapy, suggests research
May 23, 2018 - Study finds connection between one partner’s BMI and other spouse’s risk of developing diabetes
May 23, 2018 - Mapping the Genes Responsible for Pluripotency
May 23, 2018 - FDA Alert: Homeopathic Teething Drops, Nausea Drops, Intestinal Colic Drops, Stomach Calm, Expectorant Cough Syrup, Silver-Zinc Throat Spray, and Argentum Elixir by MBI Distributing: Recall
May 23, 2018 - Genetic fixer-uppers may predict bladder cancer prognosis
May 23, 2018 - Investigational technology could increase donor organ supply for lung transplants
May 23, 2018 - Prediabetic patients with OSA could lower their resting heart rates by using CPAP
May 23, 2018 - Schizophrenics’ blood samples feature genetic material from more types of microorganisms
May 23, 2018 - Subtle hearing deficits can change the brains of young people
May 23, 2018 - New study shows increased rates of hospitalization for suicide among youths
May 23, 2018 - Proportion of Drug-Intoxicated Organ Donors on the Rise in U.S.
May 23, 2018 - Using virtual biopsies to improve melanoma detection
May 23, 2018 - Compassion meditation training may increase brain’s resilience to suffering of other people
May 23, 2018 - New AAD PSA uses social media imagery to highlight tanning hazards
May 23, 2018 - Frequent MRSA surveillance could contain infection in newborns, study finds
May 23, 2018 - Medicaid expansion linked to reduction in ICU utilization
May 23, 2018 - Proteins moderating nicotine dependence may help fat cells burn energy
May 23, 2018 - Researchers identify mechanisms that regulate mammary gland development
May 23, 2018 - ‘Low-Alcohol’ Booze Labels May Backfire
May 23, 2018 - Social isolation could increase risk of death, hospitalizations for heart failure patients
May 23, 2018 - New research shows that children with autism are able to create imaginary friends
May 23, 2018 - New technology could make prosthetic use more intuitive and reliable
May 23, 2018 - HU researchers explore how simulated microgravity affects gene expression, muscle cell differentiation
May 23, 2018 - Researchers develop injectable bandage to stop fatal blood loss, activate wound healing
May 23, 2018 - Exercising for 4-5 days per week is needed to keep the heart young
May 23, 2018 - Porvair Sciences offers wide range of reagent reservoirs for use with automated liquid handling systems
May 23, 2018 - New study unravels secrets of HIV’s persistence
May 23, 2018 - IDF launches initiative to improve health services for displaced people with diabetes
May 23, 2018 - Maintaining healthy weight between early adulthood and middle age could help avoid diabetes
May 23, 2018 - DNA vaccine shows promise for colorectal cancer
May 23, 2018 - Abnormal brain connections seen in preschoolers with autism
May 23, 2018 - Study finds increase in number of calls to US Poison Control Centers about ADHD medication exposures
May 23, 2018 - Yoghurt before a meal packed with health benefits
May 23, 2018 - New tool predicts the lifetime risk of Alzheimer’s
May 23, 2018 - Scientists reveal mechanisms that may help preterm infants extend nephron development window
May 23, 2018 - Unnecessary antibiotic use for asthma exacerbations linked to increased hospital stays, costs
May 23, 2018 - Quitting cigarettes linked to better lung health than long-term light smoking
May 23, 2018 - Researchers shed light on how androgen deprivation therapy increases risk for cardiovascular mortality
May 23, 2018 - Ingesting blue dye tablet during colonoscopy aids in detecting difficult-to-see polyps
May 23, 2018 - Patients with low-back pain benefit from early physical therapy
May 23, 2018 - Researchers discover link between tuberculosis and Parkinson’s disease
May 23, 2018 - FDA Approves Doptelet (avatrombopag) for Chronic Liver Disease Patients with Thrombocytopenia who are Undergoing a Medical Procedure
May 23, 2018 - Is knee pain linked to depression?
May 23, 2018 - Research team uncovers new information that more accurately explains formation of tumors
May 23, 2018 - Brain stimulation shows promise in treating obesity by reducing food cravings
May 23, 2018 - Mediterranean diet may protect people from negative effects of air pollution
May 23, 2018 - Researcher aims to develop virtual biopsy tool for early melanoma detection
May 23, 2018 - Medical centers more willing to perform lung transplants for severe alcoholic hepatitis patients
May 23, 2018 - The brain may tune to social learning even at rest, finds study
May 23, 2018 - Eczema drug alleviates asthma symptoms and improves lung function
May 23, 2018 - Researchers to test two-pronged approach in humans to treat advanced colorectal cancer
May 23, 2018 - FDA Alert: Juluca, Tivicay, Triumeq (dolutegravir): FDA to Evaluate
May 23, 2018 - Neuroscientists say daily ibuprofen can prevent Alzheimer’s disease
May 23, 2018 - Scientists decipher workings of little-understood bacterial riboswitch
May 23, 2018 - Investigational drug offers hope of relief for celiac disease patients exposed to gluten
May 23, 2018 - PCI along with prescribed drugs better than medication alone for treating for people with heart disease
May 23, 2018 - ToolGen’s CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing platform improves T-cell anti-tumor activity in mouse model
May 22, 2018 - FDA approves new drug to treat thrombocytopenia in adults with chronic liver disease
May 22, 2018 - CSIRO study urges Australians to avoid junk protein foods for healthy weight loss
May 22, 2018 - Breath Test Shows Promise for Diagnosis of Esophagogastric CA
May 22, 2018 - Common class of drugs linked to dementia even when taken 20 years before diagnosis
Near incineration of psychiatric hospital highlights gaping need for more beds

Near incineration of psychiatric hospital highlights gaping need for more beds

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

As fire raged in Ventura, Calif., earlier this month, Gracie Hartman made her way to the county fairgrounds to look for her friend, Fernando.

She found him there at the evacuation center, among 69 patients from the Vista del Mar acute psychiatric hospital, one of two such facilities in the county. They had been removed with little time to spare as the hospital was overtaken by flames.

Over the next couple of days, Fernando was transferred to one general hospital as a stopgap, then to another, because, unlike the first, it would accept his insurance.

“He was so upset, that he was throwing up,” said Hartman, who spoke on condition that Fernando be identified only by his first name to protect his privacy. “It was a nightmare.”

Overnight, the private hospital’s shutdown wiped out about two-thirds of the psychiatric hospital capacity in Ventura County, population 850,000. That a fire could so quickly devastate a county’s inpatient psychiatric services only underscores how few beds there are — a phenomenon that holds true across California and nationwide.

“It’s a huge loss,” said Dr. Bryan Wong, chief medical officer of the county-run Ventura County Medical Center, which has a 43-bed psychiatric unit. “It leaves us vulnerable. It was a crisis even before the fires. We were at full capacity consistently. Now, it’s turned into a level beyond that.”

There are about 8,805 acute psychiatric beds in California, according to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development — not enough, advocates say, to meet the need. California has about 15 psychiatric beds per 100,000 residents compared with a recommended standard of 50 beds for 100,000 people, according to the Arlington, Va.-based Treatment Advocacy Center, which promotes greater access to mental health treatment.

The country has struggled with a national shortage of psychiatric hospital beds for many years. Last year, the United States had 37,679 state psychiatric beds, down 13 percent from 2010, according to the center.

The closure of public psychiatric hospitals has left many people with nowhere to go for treatment during an acute mental health crisis, according to the Virginia-based center. Without a reliable source of inpatient care, patients languish in overcrowded emergency rooms or, even worse, deteriorate until they’re arrested and jailed, often for minor infractions. Some become homeless.

In addition, many people experience severe psychiatric problems while trying to cope with disasters — and those very disasters can limit their options for care.

In recent years, catastrophes have damaged or threatened psychiatric facilities elsewhere around the country, sending doctors and families scrambling to transfer patients to other facilities, sometimes far away from their community, friends and family.

In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene severely damaged Vermont’s state-run psychiatric hospital, forcing the evacuation of 51 residents. The hospital never reopened, and the state replaced it with a smaller facility several years later. Before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, 73 adult, adolescent and child patients at an acute psychiatric facility were evacuated by bus from New Orleans to Memphis, Tenn., on a weekend night — a trip of about 400 miles.

Vista del Mar, an 87-bed acute care facility and the only one that treats children and teens, as well as adults, in Ventura County, didn’t completely burn down, but it lost key buildings. Although its owner, Corona, Calif.-based Signature Healthcare Services, has said it will rebuild, it is unlikely to reopen soon.

Vista del Mar’s closure further burdens the region’s emergency rooms, which often board psychiatric patients for days on end while they wait for a mental health bed to open up, Wong said. These patients are seriously ill, posing a danger to themselves or others, he said.

A nearby addiction treatment center, Evolve Camarillo, has offered “emergency mental health triage” for teens, but the center is not a licensed psychiatric hospital.

A state bill that would have established an online registry to help medical providers find psychiatric beds was supported by the California Psychiatric Association but opposed by the California Hospital Association as unlikely to meet the complex challenge of finding appropriate treatment for patients, and the bill died in committee in late 2016.

In Ventura, Wong said the county-run acute psychiatric facility accepted 20 patients from Vista del Mar the night they were evacuated, hastily revamping a triage area to house them. Other patients, including children and teens, were sent to hospitals as far away as Bakersfield and Los Angeles.

The patients likely would stay for several days, then be referred to outpatient treatment if they were well enough, Wong said.

Fernando, who suffers from a rare bone disease, was being treated for anxiety and depression at Vista del Mar. He eventually was transferred to a Kaiser Permanente psychiatric facility in Los Angeles, Hartman said. (Kaiser Health News is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.)

Blair Stam, executive vice president for Vista del Mar’s owner, said his company plans not just to rebuild but to expand the hospital “because the need is so great.”

The hospital has been between 85 and 90 percent full at any given time, he said. He hopes state health officials will fast-track construction plans, he said. But that could take years, given complex hospital building regulations and what’s likely to be intense competition for construction resources in the region.

The vast and deadly Thomas Fire, which has burned an estimated 272,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of buildings, was only about 55 percent contained as of Wednesday, according to firefighters.

In the meantime, “families are scrambling” as their loved ones are on the verge of being discharged from the far-flung hospitals they were sent to after the fires, said David Deutsch, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Ventura chapter, an advocacy group. “We’re in pretty dire straits here” Deutsch said. “It’s quite chaotic.”

Kaiser Health News senior correspondent Liz Szabo contributed to this report.


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles