Long Island’s Lost Psychiatric Beds as Demand for Mental Health Services Soars, Report Finds

Long Island has lost nearly 200 inpatient psychiatric beds since 2014, even as the region’s mental health needs have continued to grow, according to a new report released Wednesday by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

From April 2014 to December 2023, psychiatric inpatient capacity decreased statewide by 10.5 percent, or 990 beds, from 9,447 beds to 8,457 beds, the report found.

Nearly 75 percent of the drop was caused by fewer beds in state psychiatric facilities, while the rest came from community hospitals that offer 24-hour inpatient services, the data show.

Increased mental health services are urgently needed to meet the growing demand for care, DiNapoli said. With the COVID pandemic behind us, New York must redouble its efforts to restore inpatient psychiatric bed capacity and preserve and expand telehealth services.

As of December, Suffolk County had 843 inpatient psychiatric beds, the most of any county outside of New York City, while Nassau had 223 beds, the report found.

But that capacity declined significantly between 2014 and the end of last year, a period in which Suffolk lost 129 beds and Nassau lost 47, the Comptroller’s office said.

Much of the decline occurred during the pandemic when many psychiatric beds across the state were converted to medical care for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the decline in inpatient psychiatric care comes at a time when there was a 23 percent increase in the number of New Yorkers served by the state’s public mental health system, according to the report.

This is not just a disparity. This is a canyon of inequality, Steve Chassman, executive director of the Westbury-based Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, which helps residents with a range of mental health issues, said of the numbers.

Aside from the mental health risks, there’s also an economic cost to not having adequate psychiatric services, he said.

You’re looking at lost work productivity, the cost of hospitalization and law enforcement, Chassman said.

About two-thirds of Long Island’s 1,066 inpatient psychiatric beds are in community hospitals, according to the data.

In January, state officials sent letters to community hospitals directing them to reopen roughly 850 non-operational inpatient psychiatric beds that were taken offline during the pandemic.

Hospitals were required to reopen beds by February 10 or submit a plan to reopen by April 1. Hospitals that do not comply risk civil penalties of up to $2,000 per day or $25,000 per violation.

So far, the state has restored nearly 500 psychiatric beds that were offline at community hospitals, including 67 at Long Island facilities, officials said. Another 50 beds have been restored at Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Brentwood, state officials said.

Challenges to reopening offline beds include recruiting, hiring and paying additional staff, the costs of new beds and equipment, and limited options for discharging patients to residential settings or long-term psychiatric care, according to the report

The state Office of Mental Health recently sent warning letters to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow and New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, advising them to make their inpatient capacity fully operational authorized to avoid fines.

NUMC, Long Island’s only public hospital, which has faced serious financial problems in recent years, did not respond to requests for comment.

We appreciate comptroller’s acknowledgment that significant progress has been made since 2013, including forcing hospitals to reconnect hundreds of inpatient psychiatric beds and establishing 150 new beds in state facilities, said Justin Mason, a spokesman for the ‘State Office of Mental Health. . Inpatient care is one component of the broad continuum of mental health care and we will continue our efforts to address the full spectrum of mental health needs.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s 2023-24 state budget includes $1 billion in new funding for the state’s mental health system, DiNapoli said.

State data indicates that more than 3.2 million adult New Yorkers live with some form of mental illness, with rates especially high among 18- to 25-year-olds. About 783,000 of those New Yorkers were diagnosed with a serious mental illness that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities, according to the report.

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