Access to psychiatric and addiction services on the decline

April 1, 2002

Pharmaceutical Representative

Access to behavioral health services may be a growing challenge as psychiatric hospital occupancy rates reach the highest levels in more than five years.

Access to behavioral health services may be a growing challenge as psychiatric hospital occupancy rates reach the highest levels in more than five years, according to data released by the Washington-based National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems. The trend is true for all types of programs (including child, adolescent, adult, older adult and drug/alcohol programs), according to the NAPHS.

"Behavioral health caregivers are working harder with limited resources," said NAPHS Executive Director Mark Covall. "Higher occupancy is occurring at a time when closings and consolidations have reduced the number of hospitals available nationwide. With fewer beds available, the need for services growing and lengths of stay short but relatively constant, it is important to ensure that there are adequate resources to meet the growing demand and the increasing costs of delivering care."

Hospital occupancy increasing

Psychiatric hospital occupancy increased significantly between 1999 and 2000, growing 11% (from 62.3% in 1999 to 69.2% in 2000). Over the last five years, occupancy rates increased 24.4% (from an average 55.6% in 1996).

Lengths of stay remain very brief. Average hospital length of stay was 10 days in 2000, nearly the same as 1999 (10.2 days). From 1991 to 2000, lengths of stay plummeted 57% (from 23.1 days in 1991 to the current 10 days). The downward pressure on lengths of stay is part of a shift in the role of hospitals toward a stabilization model.

Partial hospital programs admitted an average of 487 individuals in 2000, down slightly from 507 in 1999. At the same time, average partial hospital visits per year increased from 7,088 in 1999 to 7,715 visits in 2000 - a reflection of the severity of illness being treated in this level of care. "However," said Covall, "fewer partial hospital programs now exist as facilities have struggled with administrative costs due to Medicare regulations, fewer payers for partial hospital services and managed care organizations' pressure to look to lower-cost alternatives." PR

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