NPR, November 30, 2017
Samantha Raphaelson

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A severe shortage of inpatient care for people with mental illness is amounting to a public health crisis, as the number of individuals struggling with a range of psychiatric problems continues to rise.

The revelation that the gunman in the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting escaped from a psychiatric hospital in 2012 is renewing concerns about the state of mental health care in this country. A study published in the journal Psychiatric Services estimates 3.4 percent of Americans — more than 8 million people — suffer from serious psychological problems.

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.

"State hospitals began to realize that individuals who were there probably could do well in the community," he tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson. "It was well-intended, but what I believe happened over the past 50 years is that there's been such an evaporation of psychiatric therapeutic spaces that now we lack a sufficient number of psychiatric beds." [...]

health law policy mental health public health regulation