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Kilmer, Herrera Beutler Advance Effort to Address Severe National Shortage of Psychiatric Beds for Mental Health Patients

Members added bipartisan language calling for a report from the Secretary of Health and Human Services on the problem to the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill

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Washington, D.C. , July 13, 2016 | comments
The House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment that included language offered by Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03) to address the severe national shortage of psychiatric beds for patients in need.
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The House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment that included language offered by Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03) to address the severe national shortage of psychiatric beds for patients in need. The language would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to present a report to the committee on how the government can best assist state, local, and tribal governments to increase the number of inpatient hospital beds and access to quality mental health care. The language was added to the report accompanying the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2017.

According to a recent report from the Treatment Advocacy Center state hospital beds for use by psychiatric inpatients have fallen to record lows – 11.7 beds per 100,000 people. Overall in Washington state the average is 10.2 beds per 100,000 people. 90 percent of physicians surveyed by the Treatment Advocacy Center reported that mentally ill patients were being held in emergency rooms because no other suitable facilities were available. 

“We face a mental health challenge in the communities I represent,” said Kilmer. “We hear it in the stories of individuals whose struggles with mental illness keep them cycling through our local jails and emergency rooms. We see it when police and emergency responders are forced to devote more and more of their time to behavioral health problems. One of the biggest problems we face is the lack of proper beds for those in crisis. I’m proud to work with Representative Herrera Beutler to help give local governments the tools they need to tackle this problem.”

“Our communities do not currently have the tools in place to appropriately assist individuals who need help in a mental health crisis, leaving law enforcement and hospitals to carry that weight,” said Herrera Beutler. “My colleague, Congressman Kilmer, and I are hopeful our solution will move us closer to having both rural and urban communities throughout Washington state that are fully equipped with the mental health resources they need.”

The members’ provision is supported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, the Treatment Advocacy Center, the American Hospital Association, and the American Psychiatric Association.

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