A broad coalition of more than a dozen Assembly members, led by Speaker Vincent Prieto and Assembly Budget Chair Gary Schaer, are seeking answers as to why the state Department of Health cancelled a call for additional psychiatric beds and services despite evidence of a growing need for these services throughout the state.
In a letter sent to the Commissioner of the Health Department late last month, the lawmakers noted, “Over the past several months, we have hosted three roundtable discussions throughout the state. These discussions addressed many issues related to behavioral and mental health, one of them being our state’s inpatient psychiatric delivery system. Throughout these discussions, behavioral and other healthcare professionals continuously raised the need for increased bed capacity.
“Their inability to access inpatient short-term care facility beds, and in many cases specialty beds for individuals with persistent or co-occurring needs, has created waiting times that can range from three to ten days in emergency rooms. This prolonged wait time could potentially have a damaging effect for such a fragile and vulnerable population.”
The letter was sent in response to the Department of Health’s decision to cancel the call for applications for certificates of need for psychiatric beds and services which was originally due on February 1, 2015. Compounding the matter, the lawmakers noted, is the fact that the next scheduled deadline for such a call is February 1, 2017.
As a result, the Assembly members have requested that the department provide an explanation for postponing or cancelling additional psychiatric beds as well as reconsideration of an earlier deadline than the next one scheduled for 2017.
Among those who also signed off on the letter seeking answers are Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, Health and Senior Services Committee Chair Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D., Human Services Committee Chair Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee Chair Craig Coughlin and Women and Children Committee Chair Pamela Lampitt.
To date, the Department of Health has not responded with any answers.
A full copy of the letter can be viewed here.