LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors today approved a two-year pilot program to add 500 mental health beds countywide.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger recommended the pilot program, calling it ``a critical first step of rapid expansion.''
An October report by the Department of Mental Health found that county psychiatric emergency rooms are severely overcrowded, with patients sometimes waiting days for a hospital bed.
One of the goals of the pilot program is to get people the care they need to keep them out of a jail system that has become one of the nation's largest mental health institutions. Roughly one-quarter of homeless individuals countywide have a serious mental illness and cycle in and out of hospitals and jail without receiving care to put them on a path to recovery, according to the report.
More hospital beds will not be enough to resolve the problem, DMH Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin told the board. More ``step-down'' residential care beds and a network of cooperation will also be required.
``The effort isn't just about increasing the number of beds, it is also increasing the quality of care and creating a network between all of our hospitals, whether they are county hospitals or private hospitals, so we can efficiently use those beds,'' Sherin said.