Monday, May 15, 2006

NJ hospital admissions and AOT

“Admissions and census levels at the state hospitals have remained at higher levels than would be preferred.”
That quote comes from the New Jersey Department of Human Services, responding to a question regarding the continually high census rates at state hospitals despite significant investments in community resources. Unfortunately, these investments havn't resulted in the sort of reductions the state anticipated. In fact, the total hospital census for FY 2006 is over 125 individuals higher than it was in FY 2001.

One factor that directly contributes to these numbers is New Jersey’s lack of an assisted outpatient treatment law. Without an effective means for ensuring that the most severely mentally ill maintain their treatment in the community, New Jersey’s most ill are allowed to cycle in and out of hospitals, jails, and the streets.

Data from the state shows just how drastic a problem New Jersey is facing. The Division of Mental Health Services reported that almost 10% of individuals between the ages of 18-64 admitted to a state hospital are readmitted within 30 days of discharge. The readmission rate jumps to 22% in the 6-month period following discharge. According to the New Jersey Office of Mgmt. & Budget, readmission rates are estimated to be as high as 35% at one of the state hospitals.

Fortunately, hope is on the horizon. Senator Richard Codey, with the support of groups like NAMI NJ, the NJ Psychiatric Association and the Governor’s Task Force on Mental Health, introduced SB 1093, a bill that would finally provide for an AOT law in New Jersey – and give hope to the most severely ill.

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