The Effect of Community Mental Health Services on Hospitalization Rates in Virginia

Tanya Nicole Wanchek, Ph.D., J.D., Elizabeth L. McGarvey, Ed.D., MaGuadalupe Leon-Verdin, M.S., and Richard J. Bonnie, LL.B.

This study examined the relationship between the availability of mental health outpatient services provided by 40 publicly funded community service boards (CSBs) and the use of inpatient mental health treatment among Medicaid recipients. Methods: Three-year data were obtained for Medicaid recipients aged 18–64 from the Medicaid claims database for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Medicaid recipients who had a mental disorder diagnosis and who had received at least one community mental health service were included in the sample. A multivariate regression model was used for the analyses. Results: Of the 11,107 individuals included, 27% had schizophrenia-related disorders and 32% had affective psychoses; 60% were white and 37% were black; and the average age was 40.1±13.1 years. In this sample, greater use of outpatient mental health services, but not greater variety of services available, was correlated with fewer inpatient hospital days for mental health treatment (–1.0±.2 days of hospitalization). Conclusions: Virginia’s CSBs provide a range of outpatient mental health services that are designed to enable individuals to remain in their community. The availability of community-based mental health services was correlated with lower rates of inpatient hospitalization for mental illness. More research, however, is needed to establish causality and to determine which services are most effective at reducing the need for inpatient care. (Psychiatric Services 62:194–199, 2011)