Psychiatric beds

Distribution and use of psychiatric beds in North Carolina

PI: Alan R. Ellis, PhD, MSW
Research Assistant: Hannah Rossi, MSW

Due to factors such as deinstitutionalization from psychiatric hospitals and insufficient psychiatric resources in the community, North Carolina is one of many states with shortages of mental health services. In North Carolina, these shortages cause many patients to spend hours or even days in emergency rooms while awaiting inpatient psychiatric treatment. Describing how psychiatric beds are distributed, what influences their use, and how their distribution relates to the distribution of other mental health resources would greatly facilitate mental health policy discussions in North Carolina and may also inform efforts in other states.

Through internal funding from the Research Office of the NC State College of Humanities and Social Sciences, we achieved 3 objectives: (1) to estimate total and available psychiatric beds in North Carolina by county, mental health service area, and hospital service area, controlling for population; (2) to examine the use of licensed psychiatric beds and any factors facilitating or preventing their use; and (3) to compare the distribution of psychiatric beds to available measures of the need, supply, and shortage of mental health professionals. We used the following data sources: publicly available data from the U.S. Census and state offices such as the Division of State-Operated Health Facilities, secondary data from a previous project on mental health professional shortage estimation, and data collected from brief telephone interviews with personnel in hospitals with licensed psychiatric beds.

link to fact sheet for project participants