Posted on September 25, 2018 19:09

Massachusetts Could Lose 1,000 Behavioral Health Beds if Question 1 Passes

August 6, 2018 

Research finds that mandated nurse staffing ratios will dramatically decrease access to mental health care; increase emergency department boarding; exacerbate opioid crisis

Boston, MA – August 6, 2018 – A study released today by the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems (MABHS) found that mandated nurse staffing ratios, the subject of Question 1 on the Massachusetts ballot this November, will lead to a devastating loss of inpatient behavioral health beds, increase emergency room boarding for mental health patients, and decrease access to recovery services across the Commonwealth. These negative impacts will exacerbate the state’s opioid crisis and further strain Massachusetts’ already fragile behavioral health care system.

“If Question 1 passes, it will result in a 38% decrease in patient volume. That’s the equivalent of removing roughly 1,000 behavioral health beds from service,” said David Matteodo, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems. “This result could be devastating to both patients and the behavioral health system as a whole, as there would be no place for displaced patients to go when they are in acute distress and need immediate behavioral health services.”
Since 2011, opioid related ED visits in Massachusetts have increased by 87%, and emergency department boarding times remain a critical issue for those seeking care. Passage of Question 1 would push the state’s mental health system past the breaking point.

Emergency departments at the maximum nurse-to-patient ratios would be forced to turn patients away, leaving some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable populations without the critical care they need. Patients who seek inpatient psychiatric or substance abuse care by going to an emergency department, a disproportionately large percentage of that population, would face even longer wait times until a bed becomes available. Mental health providers, who already face a severe nurse shortage, would be unable to recruit the additional nurses required to meet the mandate.

“Psychiatric hospitals and units would have to reduce volume by such significant levels because they either cannot find or pay for the additional required RNs,” continued Matteodo. “I have been informed by hospital CEOs that the very existence of some of these facilities would be threatened and they likely would have to close them altogether.”

The ballot question proposed by the Massachusetts nurses’ union, which represents less than a quarter of nurses in the Commonwealth, requires that hospitals across the state, no matter their size or specific needs of their patients, adhere to the same rigid nurse staffing ratios within all patient care areas at all times.

The Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health System’s report is clear: mandated nurse staffing ratios will lead to the loss of 1000 beds across the state, and will increase barriers to mental health treatment across the entire Commonwealth, leaving the state deeper in crisis.

The Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems (MABHS) is the only trade association in Massachusetts whose central mission is to focus on inpatient psychiatric and substance abuse issues. Originally founded in 1989 by the freestanding psychiatric hospitals, the MABHS has grown over the years and now consists of 45 inpatient facilities statewide, from the Berkshires to Cape Cod. Its member facilities have over 2,000 beds, and admit over 50,000 patients on an annual basis.


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