New Database Makes Psychiatric Treatment More Accessible

Nov 23, 2016

A new program to get severely ill psychiatric patients into a hospital in a timely manner is working, according to a new report by the Iowa Department of Human Services.  

Officials say the 29 hospitals in Iowa that serve psychiatric patients are now reporting available beds into a statewide database, so law enforcement officers and others can know where there’s an opening in an emergency situation. 

“We now have 100% involvement of all the hospitals,” said DHS director Charles Palmer.  

The DHS director briefed Governor Branstad’s budget panel on the program.

Palmer says hospitals may not be updating the information daily.

“But do they do so on a regular basis?” Palmer asked.   “We believe so and we’re calling those that don’t.”

Without the tracking program, officers would sometimes drive hundreds of miles in search of a facility for a severely ill patient.       

Palmer says there  are reasons why a hospital might not want to report an open bed.

“There are certain people who they do not feel at a point in time that they can take,” Palmer said.    

Palmer says facilities fear if they take a difficult patient, they will be left with the patient’s care.  

“And that’s the case,” Palmer said.        

Palmer says on average there are about 70 vacant beds each day, but accessing them can still require significant travel.

Palmer says the number of staffed and available inpatient psychiatric hospital beds grew slightly this year, reaching nearly 750 this summer.