Current Issue: Mental Health Bed Shortage

In 1955, there were 340 beds available in mental health hospitals per 100,000 people. Today there are only 17 per every 100,000. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, there needs to be AT LEAST 50 beds per 100,000 people. The shortage of beds in psychiatric hospitals is having harmful, lasting effects on patients and their communities. By not providing people with mental illness a bed to get help, their health is prolonged and public safety is threatened.

On November 19, 2013 Virginia state Senator Creigh Deeds was stabbed multiple times by his 24 year old son Gus. After attacking his father, Gus, who had previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, committed suicide. The night before the incident, Senator Deeds was concerned about his son’s mental health and took him to the emergency room. However, a detention order was unable to be drawn because no beds were available at local facilities. By Virginia state law, Deeds had to be released by authorities after six hours because no bed was available.

“That makes absolutely no sense,” said Senator Deeds in a March press conference. “An emergency room cannot turn away a person in cardiac arrest because the ER is full, a police officer does not wait to arrest a murder suspect or a bank robber if no jail space is identified.”

If a bed had been available for Gus Deeds, it could have saved his life.

What can we do regarding this threatening issue? Seek government help and raise awareness. Write letters to state Senate pleading for attention to be drawn to this issue. Ask that more beds be available, laws be changed, and assisted outpatient programs to grow.

For more information on this topic or for assistance regarding your or a loved ones mental health, contact the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill at 1-800-950-NAMI.

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