It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week––State Agency Highlights that Hospital Stays for Treatment Exceeded One Million Days during 2018 > Hospital Association of Pennsylvania

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It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week––State Agency Highlights that Hospital Stays for Treatment Exceeded One Million Days during 2018

October 09, 2019

Since 1990, the first full week of October has been dedicated as Mental Illness Awareness Week. During this time, advocates, families, and individuals living with a mental health condition work to raise awareness about mental illness. Through education around the physical, social, and financial impacts of mental illness, this collective voice works to influence positive policy reforms, increase access to care, and fight stigma.

Mental illness is a medical problem like heart disease or diabetes. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Journal of the American Medical Association, one in five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year and one in six U.S. youth aged six-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.

Today, the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) released a research brief stating that there were 113,704 hospital admissions for Pennsylvania residents for treatment of a mental disorder during 2018. The total number of hospital days for patients treated for mental disorders exceeded one million days, with an average stay of 10.2 days. Covering residents of all ages, the brief shows patients aged 18-44 accounted for the most admissions at 50.8 percent.

While Pennsylvania’s hospitals treat all patients regardless of their health status, patients experiencing a mental health crisis may need specialized care or a dedicated space for care. These spaces can offer a safe, stable environment to help patients recover or try a new medication or treatment—something a hospital emergency department or inpatient bed cannot offer.

Pennsylvania has too few outpatient resources and inpatient treatment options to help patients get the mental health care they need, and there is a shortage of specialists to provide behavioral health care. Additionally, the state is experiencing a shortage of specialists who provide behavioral health care. To help increase access to these important care resources and services, HAP advocates for:

  • Additional funding for outpatient resources and inpatient treatment options
  • Expanding access to and payment for behavioral telehealth to expand access
  • Elimination of regulatory barriers that can impede coordination between physical health and behavioral health providers so they can better coordinate a patient’s care
  • Approval for the use of advanced practice professionals in the behavioral health care setting to preserve access in high-utilization and underserved areas
  • Modernizing policy to improve access to information to improve patient care
  • Protecting behavioral health care insurance coverage
  • Attaining equal treatment of mental health conditions in insurance plans   

HAP also initiated House Resolution 268, which was passed during the spring. The resolution directs the Joint State Government Commission to study the effects of behavioral health holds on emergency departments and patients. The Joint State Government Commission will issue the report with its findings and recommendations to the House Health and Human Services Committees, and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee by June 2020. 

For more information, contact Jennifer Jordan, HAP’s vice president, regulatory advocacy.

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