Colorado Is Lacking in Inpatient Psychiatric Beds as Need Rises

Disappearing Beds

Disappearing Beds

An analysis by Rocky Mountain PBS I-News has found that more and more Coloradans are being placed into involuntary mental-health treatment.

Court filings show a 35 percent jump in 72-hour holds, short- and long-term certifications, and other court-ordered treatment between fiscal years 2009 and 2013. Mental health providers reported 31,317 emergency mental-health holds in fiscal year 2013, according to state officials, a 21 percent increase from just a year earlier.

But the growing demand for beds hasn’t been met by an increase in availability, as reported in the I-News series, Untreated: How ignoring mental illness costs us all.

Instead, the options for low-income Coloradans in particular have shrunk as beds at the two state psychiatric hospitals have closed. In 2014, the state mental health institutes at Fort Logan and Pueblo have 553 beds, down from 734 in 2000.

There are only 1,093 inpatient psychiatric beds in all hospitals around the state, according to the state Department of Human Services, about 20 percent fewer than five years ago. That’s about 21 beds for every 100,000 Coloradans, among the worst rates in the U.S.

The state is in the process of evaluating what services might be lacking across its various regions. In part, says Dr. Patrick Fox, an official with human services, the hope is that private-sector psychiatric hospitals will meet some of the need. He gave the example of Clear View Behavioral Health, which broke ground in April on a 92-bed hospital east of Loveland expected to open in 2015.

This story is another installment in our ongoing series "Untreated: How ignoring mental illness is costing us all."

Ryan Conely / Rocky Mountain PBS

For now, hospital administrators and family members describe large geographic swaths of scarcity. In Grand Junction, West Springs Hospital is the only psychiatric hospital between Salt Lake City and Denver. The hospital, which has 32 beds, opened in 2005, at the same time as neighboring St. Mary’s Hospital closed its inpatient psychiatric beds.

Now, West Springs finds that it’s often filled to capacity, and has to turn people away. Kim Boe, the hospital’s vice president, says the wait list generally hovers between six and eight people each day.

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