Cover: Estimating Psychiatric Bed Shortages in the US

Estimating Psychiatric Bed Shortages in the US

Published in: JAMA Psychiatry, Volume 79, No. 4, pages 279-280 (April 2022). doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.4462

Posted on rand.org Oct 16, 2023

by Ryan K. McBain, Jonathan H. Cantor, Nicole K. Eberhart

The US is confronting an urgent and worsening shortage of psychiatric beds. For example, in Massachusetts, hundreds of patients have been wait-listed for acute inpatient psychiatric beds. In California, well over a thousand individuals deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial have been housed in county jails, awaiting placement at psychiatric facilities. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this dynamic, creating an epidemic within the broader pandemic. The percentage of the US populace reporting serious psychological distress—a marker of need for inpatient psychiatric services—has risen from 4% in 2018 to 13% in 2020. Meanwhile, psychiatric facilities have experienced disrupted continuity of operations and reduced bed capacity—for example, by converting double-occupancy rooms to single-occupancy rooms to reduce viral spread.

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