AB 531 (Chapter 789) was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 12, 2023 at Los Angeles General Medical Center – Los Angeles County’s largest safety-net hospital. AB 531 would fund the development of 10,000 new behavioral treatment beds and supportive housing units throughout California that will help safety-net hospitals like LA General find appropriate placements for complex patients with severe mental illness in need of subacute care and long-term support outside of the hospital setting. In attendance were the bill author CA Assemblymember District 42 Jacqui Irwin and co-sponsor Susan Eggman – CA Senator District 5. Also in attendance were Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis from First District and Fourth District Supervisor Janice Hahn. LA General Hospital is within Supervisor Hilda Solis’ District.
The severe shortage of subacute mental health beds has adversely affected Los Angeles General’s acute psychiatric unit. The dearth of beds can result in long lengths of stay and higher rates of restraints and seclusion for extremely violent patients.
A 2019 report by the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health examined the dire shortage of mental health beds in Los Angeles County and its impact on area residents. The report identified a shortage of 3,000 subacute mental health beds in Los Angeles County alone.
LA General’s psychiatric facility is an acute care center designed to stabilize patients experiencing a mental health crisis over a short-term stay. Under ideal circumstances, a patient stabilized at LA General’s acute psychiatric facility would promptly transfer to a subacute facility equipped to provide longer-term care. However, due to the severe shortage of subacute psychiatric beds, some LA General patients remain in the hospital’s acute care facility for months to years as they await transfer.
AB 531 is a critical step in the right direction to correct this fundamental injustice. LA Health Services applauds the California Legislature and Governor Newsom for their commitment to rectify long-standing mental health bed shortages in California. The investments made through AB 531 will enhance LA Health Services’ ability to appropriately care for patients and will protect patients and staff who expertly and compassionately provide care on a daily basis. The availability of new beds will establish a suitable connection that will help patients obtain care in settings appropriate for their unique clinical needs and circumstances.