An APA task force has produced a computer simulation model that it believes can help any community in the United States determine how many psychiatric beds it needs and where best to invest resources to meet the need for care in that community. A summary of the work is described in the report “The Psychiatric Bed Crisis in the United States: Understanding the Problem, Moving Toward Solutions,” published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. (The full report can be found here.)
APA leaders and members of the task force said the model can be a game changer. “What we wanted to do is build a model that can support learning, engagement, and discussion among leaders and policymakers in communities,” said Kristen Hassmiller Lich, Ph.D., an associate professor of health policy and management at the University of North Carolina School of Global Public Health. She chaired a subgroup of the task force with expertise in statistics and systems modeling.
“[The model] can allow community leaders to test different alternatives and ask ‘what if’ questions” and “can help us get a better idea of what it would look like if our system was functioning in its best form,” Hassmiller Lich explained.
The APA Presidential Task Force on the Assessment of Psychiatric Bed Needs in the U.S. was charged in 2020 by then-APA President Jeffrey Geller, M.D., M.P.H., with developing a model for determining how many psychiatric beds a community might need to meet its demand for psychiatric care. Chaired by past APA President Anita Everett, M.D., the task force comprised more than 30 APA leaders, mental health professionals who are experts in health services and population health, and members of the APA administration.
Leaders from the University of Michigan and several local partners in Washtenaw County, Mich., will be the first to test the new model. They are now gathering data that can be fed into the model.
“Right now, when you make a decision [about how to fund mental health services], you make that decision on your own largely parochial view of things, without knowing how that decision impacts other players in the system,” Gregory Dalack, M.D., chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, told Psychiatric News. “The model will give us more information about where strategic investments can be made and what the impact will be.”
Everett explained the model draws on artificial intelligence and is similar to a “machine learning” algorithm: The machine gets better and “learns” as it gathers more data. The participation of the University of Michigan and its partners will significantly advance the ability of the model to accurately forecast for other communities where they should focus resources, she said.
“If we learn some things, the task force will be empowered to take this to other communities that might use the model and then go to their state legislatures and say, ‘Here is where we need help, and this is what the impact would be,’ ” Dalack said.
For more information, see the Psychiatric News articles “Task Force on Psychiatric Beds Produces Model for Determining Need in Any Community” and “University of Michigan First to Test APA Model for Assessing Psychiatric Bed Needs.”
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