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San Diego County Adding Psychiatric Beds To Serve Growing Mentally Ill Population

Alfredo Aguirre, director of San Diego County’s Behavioral Health Services de...

Above: Alfredo Aguirre, director of San Diego County’s Behavioral Health Services department, looks at data of the number of psychiatric beds available in the region, Aug. 18, 2018.

A new psychiatric unit is set to open in San Diego this week as part of the county’s plan to boost services for a growing number of people suffering from mental illness. The 67 long-term care beds will serve people who are too ill to live on their own.

“Right now, they’re scattered throughout our hospital network waiting for a placement,” said Alfredo Aguirre, director of the county’s Behavioral Health Services Department.

”We have something around 50 individuals right now today that need a long-term care placement,” he said.

The facility, at the Old Promise Hospital building on University Avenue, already has four dozen beds run by Crestwood Behavioral Health Inc.

Aguirre said the added beds will alleviate pressure on the hospital system, and also temporarily help with the overflow from the closure of Tri-City Medical Center’s mental health units in the North County.

Tri-City’s board voted in August to shut down its 18-bed psychiatric ward on Oct. 2 due to financial and staffing issues. It already closed its crisis-stabilization unit.

“It is also important to note that Tri-City is at the table with Palomar, with the county, with UCSD to look at some potential collaborative strategies to build up our inpatient capacity up north,” Aguirre said. “I’m feeling optimistic.”

Also in the plan are several crisis-stabilization units, and a 100-bed long-term care unit in Fallbrook, set to open next spring.

Aguirre said altogether, the county has nearly 750 mental health beds, but more are needed to meet the demand. Staffing and facility challenges remain a problem, he said.

In 2017, nearly 45,000 people suffering a mental health crisis came through hospital emergency departments for treatment — nearly 5 percent more than the year before, according to the Hospital Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

A new psychiatric unit is set to open in San Diego this week as part of the county’s plan to boost services for a growing number of people suffering from mental illness. The 67-bed long-term care unit will serve people who are too ill to live on their own.

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