DCHA Members Testify on the District’s Behavioral Health Budget

On Wednesday, representatives of the District of Columbia Hospital Association testified in support of the Mayor’s proposed $273 million budget for the Department of Behavioral Health. Charles Baumgardner, CEO & Managing Director of the Psychiatric Institute of Washington, Dr. Bruno Petinaux, Interim Medical Director of The George Washington University Hospital, and Aarti Subramanian, Director of Government Affairs & Business Development for the Psychiatric Institute of Washington testified on behalf of the Association.

In 2015, DC hospitals saw 13,769 admissions attributed to psychiatric conditions. This means that 1 out of 10 hospital admissions in 2015 were related to a psychiatric diagnosis. Mr. Baumgardner’s testimony stressed the importance of the continued funding for both mental health and substance use disorders given the demonstrated need in the District of Columbia. He also pointed out that 17% of all patient days of care hospitals provided last year were tied to a psychiatric diagnosis.

During the last several years, DC hospitals have reported an increasing number of patients presenting in emergency departments (ED) with behavioral health conditions. Lack of available psychiatric beds can lead to patients waiting in the ED for an extended period of time. In his testimony, Dr. Petinaux highlighted the need to move patients out of the EDs and into psychiatric beds as soon as possible because the environment in hospital EDs is not conducive to helping a patient with a behavioral health condition begin to heal.

In order to increase the availability of psychiatric beds, especially to Medicaid patients, DCHA advocated for additional local resources to support admissions at the District’s private freestanding psychiatric hospital until the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services restarts the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) Waiver Pilot Program. Under current law, IMDs cannot receive reimbursement for Medicaid patients between 22 and 65. Re-implementing this program will decrease uncompensated care and provide expanded access to psychiatric care for DC residents.

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