Monday, August 14, 2017 12:00 AM

Tackling the puzzling problems of mental health

Mental illness strikes 20% of U.S. adults and Valley residents are at even greater risk for mental health breakdowns because of our region’s high rates of poverty and unemployment, low education levels, and environmental issues ranked among the worst in California. Local hospitals have long been where people turn during a mental health crisis.

Community Behavioral Health Center houses Fresno County’s largest 24-hour adult psychiatric care facility with 61 inpatient beds. Our region has half as many psychiatric beds per population as the rest of California and a quarter as many as is recommended by mental health experts. As California hospitals continued to shrink psychiatric care – eliminating 25% of psychiatric beds since 1995 – Community expanded its services. Last year Community’s behavioral health hospital had 1,784 admissions.
And Community Regional Medical Center’s emergency department continues to offer the bulk of mental health crisis management and involuntary psychiatric holds in the county. In 2016 the downtown ER received 6,434 visits from patients placed under involuntary holds – that’s 18 of the 306 patient encounters seen on average every day in the ER. Once patients stabilize, Community’s case managers coordinate care and connect patients and their families to Community’s Behavioral Health Center and Fresno County’s Behavioral Health Department services, as well as to social services out in the community.

Erin Kennedy reported this story. Reach her at