More patients are grappling with mental health issues and are seeking help from local hospitals, but they are facing long, costly waits for post-hospital care and housing, according to new reporting. A countywide shortage of longer-term care options for psychiatric patients has led to a surge in the number of days patients are spending waiting for care, according to new reporting from Voice of San Diego journalist Lisa Halverstadt, while county data reveals the number of adult behavioral health patients with Medi-Cal insurance or without insurance being discharged from local hospitals has spiked nearly 60% over the last decade.

“The biggest challenge is there’s nowhere to go,” said Jerry Gold, Scripps Health’s behavioral health administrator.

And there is confusion around what options are actually available to patients leaving San Diego hospitals, Halverstadt reports. “There’s not a comprehensive, public inventory of services and housing with open slots – and even county and hospital officials can differ on the definitions and standards for various types of after-care, only adding to the confusion.”

While the county has recently funded more beds for patients who need weeks or months of additional care, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher has called a meeting of local healthcare leaders to try to get consensus on various types of post-hospital care.

“We know that we don’t have enough of them,” Fletcher said. “There’s not agreement on what they all actually are.”

County behavioral health officials Luke Bergmann and Michael Krelstein told Halverstadt that they are also focused on making various parts of the mental-health system work together more seamlessly for patients and families – from hospitals to step-down care by exploring ways to encourage hospitals to help the region invest in data-sharing and perhaps different care models that might better address patients’ needs and experiences. 

“I think we can see opportunities to incentivize investment in collaboratively building the kind of an aggregate, care-coordinating aggregate, that would be to the fiscal advantage of hospitals,” Bergmann said.

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