Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Echoing throughout the mental health system

Virginia is facing a mental health crisis. Inpatient beds are in short supply, treatment standards are woefully outdated, and jails and prisons are brimming with individuals with a severe mental illness. When facing a problem this monumental, it’s easy to throw up your hands and give up. But another option is to realize that while no one solution will fix every problem, there are things that can be done that will begin to address part of the problems.

A powerful example is a series of reports released by the Central Virginia Health Planning Agency in 2004 documenting patterns of inpatient hospitalization taking place in Central Virginia. The reports found that 1244 people (305 from one planning district, 939 from another) had been hospitalized three or more times within one year. Although these individuals represented a minority of the total number of individuals hospitalized in that year, their care accounted for more than a third of all reported charges:
  • Planning district 15 residents with three or more admissions comprised only 14% of the total number hospitalized, the charges associated with their hospital care equaled 37% ($27.6M) of the total reported charges.
  • Planning district 19 residents with three or more discharges comprised only 16% of the total number hospitalized, the charges associated with their care also equaled 37% ($7.9M) of the total reported charges.

Imagine if this group of individuals was able to receive consistent care, without revolving in and out of inpatient hospitalizations. Imagine if Virginia had effective AOT provisions, which have been shown to significantly reduce inpatient hospitalizations for similar populations. The cost savings associated with helping this small group could free up monies for a myriad of different mental health programs. A small step, but one that would echo throughout Virginia’s mental health system.

Posted by John Snook - email John with comments

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