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Why Losing 30 Psychiatric Beds In Oceanside Means A Crisis For San Diego County

Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside, June 2018.

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside, June 2018.

Why Losing 30 Psychiatric Beds in Oceanside Means A Crisis For San Diego County


Dr. Michael Plopper, chief medical officer, Sharp Behavioral Health Services


The state of California has been losing psychiatric beds in locked units at a steady rate over the last 25 years.

In 1995, there were 29.5 beds per 1,000 persons available in the state. By 2015, there were just 16.9, according to the California Department of Health Care Services. The goal is 50 beds.

San Diego County's numbers will get much worse if current trends continue. The planned closing next month of Oceanside's Tri-City Hospital's locked behavioral health unit and its crisis-stabilization unit represents 30 psychiatric beds disappearing. The move has triggered the Board of Supervisors to order a comprehensive study of the county's mental health system, according to San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Paul Sisson.

Related: Mental Health Advocates Concerned By Loss Of Inpatient Beds At Tri-City

Two Hillcrest hospitals, Scripps Mercy and UC San Diego Medical Center, will rebuild starting in 2020 calling into question the future of psychiatric beds there.

As reported by The Union-Tribune, the building plans for both projects will encroach on the land where the psychiatric units current sit.

In an email, a Scripps spokesperson said, "It is our goal to replace the existing behavioral health beds and we are currently exploring ways to do that."

There are several reasons for the losses at Tri-City.

–Underfunding. Medi-Cal has decreased funding, so most psychiatric units operate at a loss.

–Mandated building requirements. Both federal and state regulations mean expensive retro-fitting or new construction. Hospitals are being rebuilt without expensive locked psychiatric units.

–Personnel. There is a general lack of psychiatrists statewide.

Dr. Michael Plopper, chief medical officer of Sharp Behavioral Health Services, surveys the landscape of San Diego County's Mental health Services and assesses what is really needed on Midday Edition. He notes that dealing with mental illness is a community-wide problem. When some institutions stop offering these services, others must pick up the slack, including other hospitals, police and homeless service providers.

Editor's note: this story has been updated to include a statement from Scripps clarifying the future of psychiatric beds in Hillcrest.


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