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Mental health needs rise as capacity decreases, says NYS Comptroller report

NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli
twitter @NYS comptroller
NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli

The New York mental health system's capacity fell amid increasing rates of mental illness, according to a recent report from state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

The report describes a 23% increase in individuals served by the state's public mental health system—nearly 900,000 New Yorkers—from 2013 to 2022. Meanwhile, the capacity of inpatient psychiatric facilities fell 10.5% statewide from April 2014 to December 2023.

Excluding New York City, the number of psychiatric beds across the state fell by 9.8%, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. As people stayed home, either using telehealth services or not seeking necessary care, inpatient psychiatric services weren't being used enough to justify keeping them open.

In January 2023, the state Department of Health and Office of Mental Health directed community hospitals to reopen approximately 850 of these beds, but as of December, just under 500 have returned to operations.

However, this is just the latest development in a long-term decline of inpatient beds, which DiNapoli says is "due to policy decisions made decades ago."