Monday, November 6, 2017

Minnesota Hospital Stops Admitting Patients With Severe Mental Illnesses

The following article appeared on Weasel Zippers on November 4th

In a decision that has dismayed mental health advocates, Essentia Health has stopped admitting patients with severe mental illness to its psychiatric unit in Brainerd, citing concerns that they were overburdening the facility.

The Duluth-based health care system said St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd in September stopped admitting “involuntary” patients held under a court order, known as civil commitment. Instead, the hospital’s 16-bed psychiatric unit now admits only patients who voluntarily accept treatment — who tend to have less-acute mental health problems than those who are civilly committed.
The move has alarmed mental health advocates, psychiatrists and state officials, who raised concerns that it could set a dangerous precedent. If other private hospitals follow St. Joseph’s lead, hundreds of Minnesotans with complex psychiatric disorders might have nowhere to go during a mental health crisis, they said.

Executives at St. Joseph’s said the shift will make the unit safer for patients and staff, while opening up additional beds to care for other patients.

Like many private hospitals across the state, St. Joseph’s has struggled to accommodate a surge in court-committed patients with serious and persistent psychiatric problems. Many of them were languishing for weeks on the hospital’s psychiatric unit as they awaited admission to crowded state facilities, occupying beds that could be used by people with less serious mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, officials said.

“There became a huge bottleneck in the state system and we had to respond,” said Adam Rees, president of St. Joseph’s Medical Center and surrounding clinics.

Patients who were civilly committed by the courts were staying an average of 40 days at St. Joseph’s mental health unit, nearly eight times longer than patients who voluntarily sought treatment, officials said. By accepting only voluntary patients, the hospital will be able to treat an additional 200 or more patients a year, including more patients from the Brainerd Lakes area, hospital executives said.

Several mental health leaders faulted Essentia for shifting a difficult challenge to others.

In a written statement, Human Services Commissiner Emily Piper called Essentia’s decision “extremely troubling.” She expressed concern that denying treatment to a certain category of patients would shift the problem to other hospitals and emergency rooms, which are already overburdened.

“The patients [Essentia] has decided to turn away are some of Minnesota’s most vulnerable people,” Piper said. “They are in crisis and should not be denied treatment as if they are an inconvenience.”

The move could also put more pressure on county jails, which already treat thousands of inmates with mental illnesses each year, though they are not properly equipped to do so, advocates warned.

“These are real people. They aren’t chess pieces,” said Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota. “And they don’t just go away because you won’t admit them.”

Ed.  The operative word here is PRIVATE! These are private facilities, not state owned/state run.  A court does NOT have the authority to impose its will on privately owned hospitals which have broken no law.

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