Staffing forced closure of 154 Massachusetts mental health beds in last 10 months, report finds

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Psychiatric units and hospitals in Massachusetts have taken at least 154 additional mental beds offline solely because of staffing needs within the last 10 months, according to a report released in December. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the existing mental health crisis and has led to an increased need for mental health services, including inpatient psychiatric placement, the nine-page report stated. The report also noted increased "boarding" in Massachusetts hospital emergency rooms and medical-surgical units caused by patients waiting for mental health beds.

To examine the effect of staffing shortages on the state's inpatient mental health system, the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association and Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems surveyed freestanding psychiatric facilities and psychiatric units in acute care hospitals in February and October, with 51 respondents in the first survey and 56 in the second.

In February, facilities reported that 208 beds, or 9 percent of reported licensed beds, were closed because of staffing needs, compared to 362 beds, or 14 percent of reported licensed beds, in October. This means at least 154 additional mental beds were reported as taken offline solely because of staffing within the last 10 months.

Nearly all facilities (96 percent) also reported shortages in registered nurses in October, and 78 percent reported shortages in mental health workers. 

Lack of enough qualified applicants and applicants refusing offers because of pay rates were cited as the top barriers to filling open positions.

To read the full report, click here

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