CONCORD — A survey of the state’s mental health providers has found as many delays and bottlenecks for patients who are ready to get out of psychiatric hospitals as there are for those waiting to get into them.
Patients wait an average of 12 days in a community hospital after behavioral health specialits have cleared them for discharge, according to survey by the Foundation for Healthy Communities, an organization that includes hospitals, providers and health plans.
The most frequent cited barrier to discharge was a lack of somewhere to live. Other reasons included a wait for an appointment with a mental health counselor, legal issues such as the appointment of a guardian, waiting for benefits to be approved and access to medication.
“A patient who completes in-patient treatment and is ready for discharge — but is unable to leave the hospital because of inadequate post-acute care housing — then blocks the availability of that in-patient bed,” said Shawn LaFrance, executive director of the Foundation for Healthy Communities and the author of the survey.
The average of 12 days varies widely. Adolescents are out in a few days, but adults under the age of 65 wait an average of 196 days.
Waits can be even longer for those cleared for discharge from the New Hampshire State Hospital.
The survey said that the daily cost of supportive housing is $297, which includes care from a community health center, room and board. In-patient hospital care costs nearly 10 times that amount.
LaFrance said people waiting for care in emergency rooms would have quicker access to hospital beds if the discharge bottleneck were addressed.