The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

California overhauls mental health department

Here is an article from that talks about a change in the way mental healthcare will be handled in an attempt to balance the budget.  Once again, staff to patient ratios become a focus and in this article the California governor wants mental health to be staffed in such a way as to cut staffing patterns by up to one-third of the staff.  The pilot program proposes to put more psychologists and psychiatrists with the aggressive patients, which is nice, but those are not the people who will be dealing face-to-face with the aggression.  They will be sitting in the nurse’s station during most emergent situations.

Here’s some of this article.  I suggest you click over to read the full article if this story scares you as much as it does me.


By JUDY LIN Associated Press
Posted: 12/12/2011 11:52:37 AM PST
Updated: 12/12/2011 04:52:14 PM PST

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—California has begun transitioning its mental health services program to concentrate care on the most serious patients residing in state mental hospitals and prisons, but the cost-cutting move is raising concerns about patient care from state workers.The state announced last week it will hand off more responsibility for public mental health programs to counties as part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s ongoing push to move services to California’s local governments. The administration says the reorganization will allow the state to form a new Department of State Hospitals that focuses exclusively on 6,300 patients in state hospitals and prisons.

“We think that as a package we’re providing a set of proposals that saves money but doesn’t change the quality of care and also increases safety,” Department of Mental Health acting-chief deputy director Kathy Gaither said in an interview Monday.

Earlier this year, state mental health officials assigned a committee to come up with a plan to improve care and safety while also finding places to cut costs within the state’s mental hospital system. The committee returned with a blueprint for overhauling the department’s policies and procedures. It cuts 346 positions in the current year to save $122.6 million and eliminates 620 positions to save $193 million next year.

The administration says it does not plan layoffs because many of those positions are already vacant or can be done through attrition.

The department currently has a $1.3 billion general fund budget.Safety Now!, a coalition of psychiatric technicians, physicians and other state hospital workers, warns that the plan would reduce staffing ratios by nearly one-third.

“It is clear that only short-term monetary goals are driving the state’s decision to cut staff,” Stuart Bussey, a doctor and president of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists said in a statement. “We know that if treatment staff are cut, patient safety will certainly deteriorate further, and assaults will increase—and that will ultimately cost the state of California more money in lawsuits than these proposed cuts will save.”

The new structure reduces patient-to-staff ratios, a move state officials say is needed to cut down on the use of overtime and contract staff—the two single biggest drivers of increased hospital spending. The department plans to modify staff levels based on the patients’ needs, putting more psychologists and psychiatrists with the most serious and aggressive patients and fewer with the more stable patients.

This week the Department of Mental Health will start with a pilot program at Atascadero State Hospital to treat its most aggressive patients together. If successful, that approach could expand to the state’s four other mental hospitals, Metro, Napa, Coalinga and Patton, along with two psychiatric programs at Vacaville and Salinas Valley state prisons.

Felisa Hamman, a nurse at Atascadero State Hospital, said it’s good the state is testing out the enhanced treatment unit, but she worries about other patients with personality disorders who have assaulted staff…[read more]

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December 18, 2011 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , | 1 Comment