On Wednesday, the Voice of San Diego reported that the county, like many communities, is facing a behavioral health care crisis with patients sometimes waiting days in the emergency department for psychiatric care. Once stabilized, people are discharged where they wait yet again for continued care. The publication obtained hospital records that reveal the waiting game has risen 27 percent compared to two years ago. Between July 2018 and May 2019, adults with Medi-Cal insurance collectively waited over 13,200 days for lower-level care after doctors determined they were stabilized and could be discharged.
While some mental health professionals believe more psychiatric beds is the answer, others told the reporter, Lisa Halverstadt, that bed increases won’t solve the problem if there’s an insufficient continuum of crisis services. Shannon Jaccard, mental health consultant and former CEO of NAMI San Diego, told Halverstadt that, since there aren’t other resources, people in crisis are forced to go to the emergency room “even if they don’t provide the most appropriate care.” County behavioral health director Luke Bergmann says additional beds only provide temporary relief because there is a continuous flow of people coming into the hospitals. He says what the county needs is improved chronic care.