Tarun Bastiampillai, Steven S. Sharfstein, & Stephen Allison
JAMA. Published online November 3, 2016
The closure of most US public mental hospital beds and the reduction in acute general psychiatric beds over recent decades have led to a crisis, as overall inpatient capacity has not kept pace with the needs of patients with psychiatric disorders. Currently, state-funded psychiatric beds are almost entirely forensic (ie, allocated to people within the criminal justice system who have been charged or convicted). Very limited access to nonforensic psychiatric inpatient care is contributing to the risks of violence, incarceration, homelessness, premature mortality, and suicide among patients with psychiatric disorders. In particular, a safe minimum number of psychiatric beds is required to respond to suicide risk given the well-established and unchanging prevalence of mental illness, relapse rates, treatment resistance, nonadherence with treatment, and presentations after acute social crisis. Very limited access to inpatient care is likely a contributing factor for the increasing US suicide rate. In 2014, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for people aged between 10 and 34 years and the tenth-leading cause of death for all age groups, with firearm trauma being the leading method.
Currently, the United States has a relatively low 22 psychiatric beds per 100 000 population compared with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of 71 beds per 100 000 population. Only 4 of the 35 OECD countries (Italy, Chile, Turkey, and Mexico) have fewer psychiatric beds per 100 000 population than the United States. Although European health systems are very different from the US health system, they provide a useful comparison. For instance, Germany, Switzerland, and France have 127, 91, and 87 psychiatric beds per 100 000 population, respectively.
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