Jul. 30, 2020

HARRISBURG – The Joint State Government Commission (JSGC) today published a report entitled Behavioral Health Care System Capacity in Pennsylvania and its Impact on Hospital Emergency Departments and Patient Health. The report was commissioned upon the passage of House Resolution 268, authored by Rep. Jim Struzzi (R-Indiana).

This report examines four critical areas of Pennsylvania’s health care system capacity:

• Impact of the current behavioral health care treatment needs and behavioral health care system capacity on hospital emergency departments and patient health in Pennsylvania.
• Impact of federal and state laws and regulations on the ability of Pennsylvania’s health care system and providers to treat behavioral health and physical health issues.
• Prevalence of psychiatric boarding, which encompasses the time in a hospital emergency department after medical stabilization of a patient in need of psychiatric care and prior to the admission or transfer of that patient to an inpatient psychiatric bed.
• Current behavioral health care treatment needs to determine the impact of psychiatric boarding on the behavioral health care system and patients in Pennsylvania.

“A shortage in mental health professionals and lack of access to timely treatment services positions emergency departments as a de facto safety net for psychiatric treatment. And while many departments are improving their ability to effectively provide psychiatric care, hospitals often face long delays in transitioning patients to appropriate treatment settings,” said Struzzi. “Delayed transition of psychiatric patients impacts both patients and delivery system outcomes – increasing psychological stress on patients; delaying mental health treatment that could mitigate the need for a mental health inpatient stay; consuming scarce department resources; worsening department crowding; and delaying treatment for other patients.”

This report also contains recommendations to ensure that health care providers in Pennsylvania are able to adequately treat patients with co-occurring behavioral and physical health issues.

“The true systemic barriers causing inefficiency in the treatment of behavioral health are not fully understood, as I learned when I saw the massive challenges faced by our health care facilities, including Indiana Regional Medical Center,” Struzzi continued. “By starting with studying specific elements of the treatment pathway, we can begin to truly understand the complexity of a system we do not yet fully comprehend. My hope is that this report and the recommendations contained therein will lead to effective legislation, improving the efficiency of our behavioral health treatment systems and increasing patients’ access to quality care.”

The full report, as well as a summary of JSGC’s recommendations, can be found here.

Representative Jim Struzzi
62nd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Kevin DiGuiseppe
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