Length of stay in state hospitals for mental health treatment linked to likelihood of relapse

    (monkeybusinessimages/BigStock)

    (monkeybusinessimages/BigStock)

    States that hospitalize severely ill psychiatric patients for shorter periods of time have higher readmission rates.

    States with longer median stays have lower readmission rates.

    Those are the conclusions of a new study from the Treatment Advocacy Center.

    By analyzing data from the federal government, the group saw a correlation between shorter stays — a week for a severely ill person — and higher readmission rates.

    “What we used to consider a short stay in a state hospital is now something that many states dream of,” said John Snook, executive director of The Treatment Advocacy Center.

    “And it’s important to remember that these are the the most severely ill individuals,” he said. “These are basically the intensive care unit beds for people with a severe mental illness.”

    Hospital stays for acute schizophrenia diminished from an average of 42 days in 1980 to just seven days by 2013, said Snook. Those shorter stays are driven by multiple factors.

    “We’ve seen state after state significantly reduce the number of state hospital beds that they have available for people to get care,” he said. “Unsurprisingly, if you don’t have a lot of beds, you’re not going to have a lot of people to be able to remain in those for a very long time.”

    The Treatment Advocacy Center is recommending a more comprehensive analysis of this data and a breakdown of how much it costs states to readmit more people. It thinks it’s worth exploring whether longer stays could cut readmission rates and improve overall outcomes.

    The results are less clear cut when comparing local numbers.

    While Pennsylvania has an average hospital stay of more than 200 days for these conditions, its readmission rates are only a few percentage points worse than in Delaware where the average stay is less than a month.

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