State psychiatric facilities under strain

Patients with mental health crises are having to wait days to get beds in Georgia, Virginia and Texas as public facilities feel the strain of understaffing and the pandemic, NBC News reported Oct. 24. 

The shortage of beds in state facilities is creating a backlog of uninsured and poor patients, as well as incarcerated patients. The crisis has been fueled by staffing shortages as many workers leave their jobs for temp agencies that pay more and provide less stressful conditions. This trend has coincided with an increase in the demand for mental health treatment spurred by the pandemic. 

In Virgina, facilities have dramatically restricted admissions to hospitals because of staff shortages. Around 10 percent of psychiatric hospital beds in Georgia are empty because there are not enough people to care for patients. Last month, the National Guard went to Oregon's largest public psychiatric facility to curb staff shortages. In Georgia, more people are being kept behind bars because of the lack of beds in state facilities, despite them not needing to be in jail. 

"ERs have been flooded with patients needing psychiatric care," said Robert Trestman, MD, PhD, of the American Psychiatric Association. "The current crisis is unprecedented in the extent, severity and sweep of its national impact."

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