Californians were shocked when The Sacramento Bee uncovered Nevada hospitals busing patients with severe mental illness to languish on Sacramento’s streets. Unfortunately, the Legislature is considering a bill that would make it easier for California hospitals to do the same.
By allowing untrained emergency room staff members working under crowded conditions to remove protective mental health holds, the California Hospital Association’s bill takes an unnecessary and an inappropriate gamble with peoples’ lives
Currently, when a person in a psychiatric crisis comes to an ER after being placed on a “5150” evaluation hold, the hospital is required to evaluate and discharge the patient to an appropriate setting where they can receive the help they need. A trained psychiatric professional can remove the hold upon determining the person is not a risk to themselves or others.
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Throughout the state, hospitals can be eager to release these patients because emergency rooms are already overcrowded and they often do not have psychiatrists or counselors to evaluate or treat them. From 1995 to 2010, hospitals eliminated 40 percent of California’s acute psychiatric beds, making it harder for ERs to find appropriate placements.
AB 1300 makes it easier for hospitals to dump patients back into crisis while doing nothing to help those living with mental illnesses and prevent them cycling back through the emergency room.
That’s why this bill is opposed by doctors, county behavioral health departments and people with experience living with mental illness and their families.
Kirsten Barlow is executive director of the County Behavioral Health Directors Association and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jessica Cruz is executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness California and can be contacted at email@example.com.