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NAMI Calls Mental Health Crisis a "Double Whammy," Shortages Exist for Both Beds and Services

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2014 -- Mary Giliberti, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offered the following statement in conjunction with a House of Representatives oversight hearing titled "Where Have All the Patients Gone? Examining the Psychiatric Bed Shortage."

"Hospital beds for individuals with mental illness who experience acute crisis are a necessary element for America's mental health care system, but there are not enough beds. Supply does not meet demand. It is not just patients who are in crisis; it is the system as well.

There is also a double whammy.

Other mental health services are being starved. Community services that can provide cheaper, incremental alternatives and prevent acute crises and hospitalizations are under-funded or non-existent.

These are services that are cost-effective. They help avoid the cost-shifting that occurs when unmet needs from the mental health care system are imposed on hospital emergency rooms, schools and law enforcement. They include:

  • Mental health screening and early intervention.
  • Crisis response and stabilization programs.
  • Discharge planning.
  • Outpatient services.
  • Peer support.
  • Assertive community treatment (ACT).
  • Supportive housing.
  • Jail diversion.
Hospitals are important downstream elements in the continuum of care, but upstream measures must not be neglected.

It also is important to note that one of the single-most effective steps for prevention is Medicaid expansion. When timely care is available, fewer people require acute crisis care. At the same time, repeal of the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion under Medicaid for acute care as proposed by Committee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) would increase funding to meet the current hospital bed shortage.

The current crisis must be addressed along the continuum. One element alone will not be enough.

NAMI appreciates the leadership of Chairman Murphy and Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) in continuing to conduct these House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on oversight and investigations hearings on the mental health care system."

About NAMI

NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

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