Senate Panel Approves Bartolotta Bill To Improve Access to Mental Health Treatment

HARRISBURG – The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved legislation today that would help reduce hospital emergency room overcrowding and connect patients who require mental health services to the care they need, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46).

Bartolotta’s legislation – Senate Bill 179 – would help improve communication between hospital emergency rooms and psychiatric units by creating a registry to identify psychiatric treatment facilities that have available beds for patients. The measure would help streamline the process for securing psychiatric beds for those patients entering hospitals, with the goal of reducing the amount of staff time spent searching for available beds.

Twenty-two other states and the District of Columbia already have similar registries in place in an effort to improve patient care.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first reported on this issue, indicating that beds in hospital psychiatric units in Pennsylvania regularly sit empty due to a lack of direct communication between providers who are searching for care for patients and the facilities with available services.

“Many hospitals are not equipped or do not have the beds available to treat a patient with an acute psychiatric problem, and the process of finding a hospital that can offer the proper treatment can be difficult, tedious and time-consuming,” Bartolotta said. “We need to streamline the process so patients are not left waiting for hours on end while emergency room staff devote more of their precious time to calling numerous other facilities in search of care.”

Under the bill, the registry which would be administered by the state Department of Health and include contact information and descriptive details for participating psychiatric facilities throughout the state as well as provide information regarding the number of beds available at each facility, the type of patient to be admitted and level of security.

Representative Dan Miller is the sponsor of a similar measure in the House of Representatives.



CONTACT: Colleen Greer (717) 787-1463