Let’s talk about the psychiatric boarding crisis

Imagine spending days or even weeks in an emergency room without treatment for a broken leg or painful kidney stone.

Patients in psychological crisis across the country are living this exact scenario. Long waits in an ER, hospital room or prison for an inpatient psychiatric bed, otherwise known as psychiatric boarding, are their unfortunate reality.

Rewind to over 50 years ago — as institutionalized patients were gradually integrated into communities, the availability of inpatient mental health beds began to shrink. The number of beds nationally in state and county psychiatric facilities plummeted by 350,000 between 1970 and 2006. Funding for outpatient services, designed to prevent relapses that would require inpatient services, has not kept up with demand. State funding nationwide for mental health has been slashed to the tune of 4.35 billion between 2009 and 2012, putting care for psychiatric patients out of reach in many communities.

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