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A Closer Look: Inpatient psychiatric beds for kids and teens in Michigan lacking

mental health file
Posted at 2:08 PM, Mar 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-23 21:59:57-04

LANSING, MI — Inpatient psychiatric access has been a challenge in Michigan for decades.

According to a 2018 Workgroup Report by the Michigan Inpatient Psychiatric Admissions Discussion, there were 729 inpatient psychiatric beds for children and adolescents in community hospitals in 1993. But by 2017, that number had decreased to 276.

Right now, Michigan has a total of 389 inpatient psychiatric beds for children and adolescents.

Michigan's Mental Health Stats

But currently, Michigan health officials say all 389 of those beds are full. So many families are left waiting. One such family is the Gross family. Jay Gross, a father from Alma, Michigan, posted a video in February about his son. In it, he spoke about his son who was stuck in the emergency room at Gratiot Hospital for weeks before he was connected to the proper resources. That video went viral, sparking a deeper conversation about the lack of inpatient psychiatric resources in Michigan.

Why Michigan is in such a bad spot?
Harmony Gould is the Vice President of Hospital and Residential Services at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in West Michigan. The fourth-largest behavioral health provider in the United States.

Robert Sheehan is the Chief Executive Officer for the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan.

This is what they had to say about the current state of mental health resources for kids and teens in our state.

"There has been a reduction over time in the number of available beds. So anytime that you restrict the number that is available It's harder to get those beds," Gould said.

Sheehan said inpatient psychiatric is like any crisis response system.

"At times you have open beds sometimes there aren't any. They also aren't equally distributed,” Sheehan said.

"Usually, you aren't going to find a psychiatric bed for your son or daughter in your local hospital. But with the right kind of physical plan and the right kind of financing for that and the right kind of financing for staff training, a number of local community-based hospitals would like to open psychiatric beds for kids and adults."

Gould said there is also a need for nurses, psychiatrists, and psychiatric technicians.

"This is really draining work, and not everyone is, is prepared to do it for the wages that are paid. So we really have to value that as a community, because that's the only way we're going to move forward but the workforce is a tremendous challenge right now. We more nurses psychiatric nurses and more psychiatrists."

The coronavirus pandemic, recent racial and social justice issues, and the political climate have only made matters worse when it comes to mental health.

"Usually, you aren't going to find a psychiatric bed for your son or daughter in your local hospital. But with the right kind of physical plan and the right kind of financing for that and the right kind of financing for staff training, a number of local community-based hospitals would like to open psychiatric beds for kids and adults."
Harmony Gould, Vice President of Hospital and Residential Services, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

“So, there was already a bed access problem, an inpatient psychiatric bed access problem before the pandemic," Sheehan said.

"You have fear of a contagious illness, you have the isolation of the pandemic or the lack of isolation, if you're used to being sort of living without everyone living or going to school and working on the same home economic loss, you know 40% of Michigan families with kids lost pay during that period and they're still losing it,"

Gould said we have to acknowledge times right now are really hard and complicated.

"Children and adolescents are trying to make sense of them, whether it's pressure from social media, what they're seeing on TV or may be experiencing in their own communities. There's a tremendous amount of stress," Gould said.

That stress is being felt all across the country.

Harmony Gould speaks out on youth mental health care.

How does Michigan compare to other states when it comes to mental health resources?

According to the 2019 Census, Ohio has a population of 11,689,100. The state confirmed to FOX 47 News they have 186 private psychiatric hospital beds for adolescents and 52 for children. When we do a per capita comparison, Ohio has one bed for every 49,1114 residents.

An article by CrossCutt stated Washington State has only 84 publicly funded psychiatric beds. With a population of 7,614,893, that means they have one bed for every 90,653 residents.

People will often ask us in the state, where do we stack up... the number of beds per capita in Michigan went to the lower end. However, you don't want to be at the higher end let me just give you an example of that. For decades, you know, and Michigan was way ahead of the curve, we had, we had beds that we used as the main form of treatment for mental health, and that's not the best approach. You want to be someplace at the lower end for sure because you want to have other bunch of alternatives
Robert Sheehan, Chief Executive Officer, Community Mental Health Association of Michigan.

Statnews.com says in Massachusetts 340 of the state's psychiatric beds are available for those under the age of 18. With a population of 6,892,503, the state has one bed for every 20,272 residents.

Michigan has a population of 9,986,857 with 389 beds for children and teens. So, we have one bed for every 25,673 residents.

“People will often ask us in the state, where do we stack up... the number of beds per capita in Michigan went to the lower end. However, you don't want to be at the higher end let me just give you an example of that. For decades, you know, and Michigan was way ahead of the curve, we had, we had beds that we used as the main form of treatment for mental health, and that's not the best approach. You want to be someplace at the lower end for sure because you want to have other bunch of alternatives," Sheehan said.

"There's no magic to figuring that sweet spot out but it's a sweet spot of a number of beds and a number of community alternatives to inpatient, but also geographically spread.

Robert Sheehan speaks to the families trying to find help.

Those alternatives are in the works, but they cost money and the right people need to be in place in order to implement them.

Sheehan says they have a blueprint on how to make things better.

"Bring CSU crisis stabilization units online, bring psychiatric residential treatment facilities online continue all the home-based work, and bring distributed inpatient psychiatric beds and you have an ideal system," Sheehan said.

Of course, it's not that easy. In part two of this conversation, we'll take a deeper look at the Michigan Inpatient Psychiatric Admission Discussion Report. And some of the changes that are in the works right now.

Sheehan and Gould say the one thing people need to continue doing is advocating for their loved ones.

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