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November 13, 2012

Stanislaus County supervisors approve mental health facility

Stanislaus County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan for dealing with skyrocketing costs of hospitalization of people suffering from mental health crises.

Stanislaus County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan for dealing with skyrocketing costs of hospitalization of people suffering from mental health crises.

The county will establish a 16-bed psychiatric health facility to provide a less intensive -- and less costly -- level of care. In addition, crisis units will assess and stabilize people undergoing less severe episodes, so they don't need to be hospitalized at Doctors Behavioral Health Center on Claus Road. To reduce the number of repeat hospital stays, the county will try to improve the management of patients who are released from the behavioral center.

In some recent months, the number of patients admitted for emergency psychiatric care averaged 40 per day, double the historic average in Stanislaus County. Often, there are no beds available at the 67-bed DBHC, requiring people to be shipped to facilities in other counties or wait in hospital emergency rooms.

The county's costs for hospitalizing the uninsured and patients in the Medi-Cal are expected to hit $10.2 million this year, a $5 million increase over the previous year. The new strategy aims to lower the cost by $1.5 million a year.

Because mental health patients are being held in emergency rooms for days, in some cases, county Behavioral Health Recovery Services is talking with local hospitals about helping to fund crisis stabilization services, estimated to cost upward of $750,000 a year.

The county will spend $2.1 million remodeling the former Stanislaus Recovery Center in Ceres for the psychiatric health facility. It will seek an outside contractor to operate the PHF, which is expected to start receiving patients in January 2014.

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