Legislators Press Christie Administration on Need for More Psychiatric Beds

Source: NJ Spotlight
It’s difficult to assess whether New Jersey has enough psychiatric beds statewide, at least compared with other states. For example, although New Jersey’s 21.9 psychiatric beds per 100,000 residents in 2010 were only 44 percent of the number advocated by the Arlington, Va.,-based nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center, the state ranked ninth nationally in per-capita psychiatric beds.
A coalition of seven senior Assembly members sent a letter to Acting Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett on July 30 asking why the state cancelled a call for applications for certificates of need for psychiatric beds. Certificates of need, also known as “CNs,” are documents that request healthcare services. For example, the state will issue a certificate of need for maternity care if it finds that there’s a shortage in a certain area. The CN process also is used to determine whether hospitals should add or close departments or facilities.
Two months after sending the letter, the legislators are expressing frustration that they haven’t heard back from the Department of Health. The letter was based on conversations that legislators had with hospital and behavioral health executives during three roundtable discussions hosted by the New Jersey Hospital Association this year, focused on behavioral health needs. They were held at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, and Kennedy University Hospital – Cherry Hill.
The discussion is taking place against the backdrop of New Jersey closing the Hagedorn psychiatric hospital and replacing the original Greystone Park hospital with a smaller facility, part of a national shift toward outpatient treatment.
It’s not unusual for the state to cancel a call for applications for certificates of need. For example, just this winter, the Department of Health also cancelled CN calls related to adult and pediatric rehabilitation beds and services; intermediate and intensive-care bassinets for newborns; and pediatric and specialized long-term beds and services.
State officials said in cancelling the call that the Department of Health, consulting with the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services of the Department of Health and Human Services, has monitored the need for new and expanded psychiatric beds and services, and determined there is no indication of present need.
Legislators have drafted legislation, yet to be introduced, that would call on the state to create a daily registry of available psychiatric beds, so that providers will know what is available.

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