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Psychiatr Serv. 2012 Feb 1;63(2):135-41. doi: 10.1176/

Impact of capacity reductions in acute public-sector inpatient psychiatric services.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco General Hospital, 1001 Potrero Ave. 7M, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.



This study tested the hypothesis that reductions in acute public-sector psychiatric inpatient capacity in a major urban area would be associated with negative impacts on patients and the community.


The impact of two discrete service changes that reduced acute inpatient capacity by 50% in a single public-sector general hospital setting was examined. Indicators of impact were obtained from existing administrative databases for a 33-month period. Indicators included measures of utilization and case mix on the acute inpatient and psychiatric emergency services, suicides among community mental health clients, and psychiatric evaluations conducted in county jails.


Reductions in inpatient capacity were not associated with hypothesized negative impacts, such as increased demand for psychiatric emergency services, decreased access to emergency or inpatient services, or increased recidivism to inpatient care. Similarly, neither the number of suicides among community mental health clients nor the number of jail psychiatric evaluations increased after capacity reduction.


Data from a single urban public-sector setting suggest that acute inpatient psychiatric capacity may be reduced without negative impacts on patients or the community. In this setting, collaboration between inpatient and outpatient providers to speed discharge facilitated reductions in inpatient length of stay that made it possible to serve the same number of patients with fewer resources. Other service system adjustments may be more appropriate in other settings, and alternative approaches to reducing utilization of high-cost inpatient care warrant examination.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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