Thursday, October 11, 2007

Virginia Report: Not Enough Psychiatrists, Beds

The Washington Post reports today on a 230-page state report that finds Virginia "lacks experienced psychiatrists to evaluate the mentally ill, there aren't enough beds for those seeking emergency treatment in many areas and hospitals are losing money on mentally ill patients, according to a state government report."

Last year, NAMI released a Report Card for each state, grading them on things like access to care, services, and infrastructure. Virginia received a grade of D. Today's report suggests increasing funding to meet the state's need.

"Additional psychiatric beds cannot be opened unless there are psychiatrists available and willing to staff them," the report says. It adds: "On the outpatient side . . . a lack of psychiatrists affects licensed hospitals because individuals in need of psychiatric service cannot find them in the community and . . . turn to emergency departments. . .

To address these shortfalls, the report suggests that the state "examine its potential role in . . . assuring an adequate supply of beds . . . [by] increasing financial support for uninsured psychiatric patients.
NAMI's report noted the lack of culturally competent treatment, and rights abuses in some of the state hospitals.

"Additionally, Virginia's ability to serve its growing population of ethnic and racial minorities has suffered because the state has shown no initiative on the issueof cultural competency. Virginia has not conducted a cultural competency assessment or developed a plan to meet the needs of minorities, who comprise nearly 30 percent of the state's total population.

Lack of short-term acute care beds for individuals in crisis is another major problem. In Northern Virginia, the commonwealth's most populous area, approximately 24 percent of the region's private bed capacity vanished in 2005 alone, due mostly to the closure of psychiatric wards at four different hospitals. Individuals in need of beds are transported downstate, resulting in trauma for the individual and diversion of local police officers, who must spend hours transporting people to areas as far away as Hampton Roads.

State hospitals have posed a different set of issues. In the 1990s, four out of 10 were under investigation by the U.S, Department of Justice (DOJ) for egregious violations of the rights of patients."
To view the actual report, the 230-page pdf report is here, and the briefing, consisting of 60 slides, is here.