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Millions Of Dollars Spent Uninsured Patients With Mental Health Problems

Armen Hareyan's picture

Virginia does not have enough experienced psychiatrists to evaluateresidents or enough hospital beds for patients seeking emergency mentalhealth treatment, and many hospitals are losing money treating thesepatients, according to a report released this week by the GeneralAssembly's Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission, the Washington Postreports.

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The 230-page report found that 47 of 135 localities inVirginia do not have public psychiatrists and that 87 do not havepublic child psychiatrists. According to the report, "Additionalpsychiatric beds cannot be opened unless there are psychiatristsavailable and willing to staff them." The report continues, "On theoutpatient side ... a lack of psychiatrists affects licensed hospitalsbecause individuals in need of psychiatric service cannot find them inthe community, and ... turn to emergency departments."

Inaddition, the study found that 24 of the state's 26 private hospitalslicensed to admit mentally ill patients reported unreimbursed feestotaling $61 million in 2005 and that 14 EDs reported unreimbursedcosts for treating mentally ill patients totaling $45 million. Thestudy also found that on a single day, 60% of the 6,350 mentally illpeople in state hospitals or jails were in jails.

The reportrecommended that the state "examine its potential role in ... assuringan adequate supply of beds ... (by) increasing financial support foruninsured psychiatric patients." Gov. Timothy Kaine (D) and GeneralAssembly members have said they would address the issues raised in thereport during next year's legislative session (Jenkins, Washington Post, 10/11).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.