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State jump-starts effort to rebuild inpatient psychiatric care in Michigan

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

The state says it’s taking new steps to fix Michigan’s serious lack of inpatient psychiatric care, in hopes of jump-starting a more comprehensive fix.

Michigan largely shut down its inpatient psychiatric facilities in the 1990s. Rather than picking up the slack, community hospitals cut back too.

That means there’s now a serious shortage of beds for people who need care for an acute psychiatric crisis.

A state-convened workgroup just issued a reportwith 41 recommendations for fixing the problem.

Those recommendations run the gamut from relatively simple and easy to implement, to longer-term fixes that will require substantial funding and coordination.

Among them, “One of the recommendations that came forward and sort of rose to the top was creating a psychiatric bed registry,” said Phil Kurdunowicz, an analyst with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Kurdunowicz said that online registry would “identify available beds at different inpatient psychiatric units across the state, and help facilitate the transfer of individuals who are in psychiatric crisis into those beds.”

There are other information gaps. Kurdunowicz said there’s preliminary data to suggest which communities and sub-populations face the direst shortages, but we still need “a better picture of where need is the greatest.”

“Where are the shortages the greatest, and then how we develop the capacity to serve people in those shortage areas?” Kurdunowicz said. “Do we need to build more state capacity, especially up north, or are there are different solutions that we need to implement around health information technology?”

Those questions about larger fixes — and how they’ll be funded — are ones MDHHS plans to deal with down the road. In the meantime, the agency has selected 19 short-term recommendations to implement this year.

MDHHS spokesperson Lisa Sutfin says those are mostly policy changes MDHHS can make that set new rules for providers and insurers. They range from reimbursement formula changes and common assessment forms, to requiring children’s hospitals to maintain child and adolescent psychiatric programs.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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