“Monday’s JLARC report indicates much of the overuse of state hospitals is due to the state’s 2014 bed of last resort law, which requires state psychiatric hospitals to accept any patient under a temporary detention order if a bed cannot be found at a privately operated facility. ‘Since then, state hospitals have experienced significant ongoing capacity constraints and have regularly admitted more patients than they can safely accommodate,’ the commission wrote…
“Finding a psychiatric bed for patients under a TDO often proves difficult, however. State law gives officials eight hours to find a bed for people in emergency custody or else release them. If a bed in a privately operated hospital cannot be found, the patient must be admitted to one of the nine state-run institutions.”
More states should follow Virginia’s example and investigate what’s happening in their mental health ‘systems.’ Many states face increasing political pressure to institutionalize people with serious mental illnesses living on the streets, which could lead to overcrowding, staff shortages, and quality of care issues. The federal government produces very little data, if any, on the quality of care in state mental health facilities.
This information void, along with isolation of mental hospital patients, makes it especially important to ensure families can stay in regular contact with loved ones living in these institutions. Channels of communication with the outside world are key to monitoring and ensuring quality of care. As a result of our advocacy, Virginia was the first state to ensure Zoom visits are available to mental hospital patients and families: