Pennsylvanians with complex medical issues may soon have additional options when it comes to post-acute care, thanks to a proposed program to be considered by the state Legislature this year. The hospital patient care transition program (PaCT) would enable hospitals to create innovative solutions for patients with behavioral health issues, chronic illnesses, and substance abuse, just to name a few.
Hospitals face many challenges when searching for the best care environment for patients with multifaceted medical issues. For example, a patient requiring dialysis who also has severe behavioral health issues may find him or herself in a hospital bed for weeks, or even months, as the hospital works to find the appropriate care setting. This can lead to negative health outcomes and creates a bottleneck of patients in desperate need of hospital beds.
That’s why Healthy Me PA is advocating for the Legislature to include in the state budget this June a $100 million PaCT program. It would help hospitals develop programs within their communities to transition patients to appropriate post-acute treatment or other settings in a timely manner.
It is critical that the funding be included this budget year because patients in need of continued care can’t afford to wait any longer. In a 2016 survey of Pennsylvania hospitals, 65 of 70 responded that they were unable to find timely placements for patients who required long-term care after an ER visit; nearly half said that happened more than 10 times a year. The time for action is now.
Through the program, hospitals could seek grants for pilot projects to expand existing services and capacity, develop new programs, or establish protocols that would aid in transitioning patients to more appropriate settings.
The beauty of the program is that it allows hospitals to develop programs to address the specific needs in their communities. Hospitals across Pennsylvania have been innovating ways to use our health care resources more effectively for years, and this grant program would allow them to personalize their discharge solutions to their patient communities. Additionally, the PaCT program encourages hospitals to work together with community partners to ensure all available resources are being used as effectively as possible.
The PaCT program is designed to supplement and act in concert with ongoing efforts by the state to bolster behavioral health and long-term care treatment capacity. It also would provide funding to expedite recommendations in a Joint State Government Commission behavioral health access study set for release in June. The study will evaluate, among other things, the patient care impact of delayed emergency department discharges of patients with behavioral health diagnoses.
The Healthy Me PA community was instrumental in getting the study off the ground because more than 400 community members signed a petition urging the state House to support and improve behavioral health.
Although these are issues all Pennsylvania hospitals face, the specifics differ between communities. There is no one-size-fits-all quick fix. That’s why we support this individualized grant program. Ask your lawmakers to include the PaCT program in this year’s budget so people have access to safe and appropriate care outside the hospital walls.