How The Loss Of U.S. Psychiatric Hospitals Led To A Mental Health Crisis

The disappearance of long-term-care facilities and psychiatric beds has escalated over the past decade, sparked by a trend toward deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients in the 1950s and ’60s, says Dominic Sisti, director of the Scattergood Program for Applied Ethics of Behavioral Health Care at the University of Pennsylvania.

The percentage of people with serious mental illness in prisons rose from .7 percent in 1880 to 21 percent in 2005, according to the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights.

For many low-income patients, Medicaid is the only path to mental health care, but a provision in the law prevents the federal government from paying for long-term care in an institution.

As a result, many people who experience a serious mental health crisis end up in the emergency room.

In order to bridge the gap between hospital stays and expensive community-based care options, Sisti argues for “a continuum of care that ranges from outpatient care and transitional-type housing situations to inpatient care.”

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