Carla K. Johnson of The Associated Press reports that “nursing homes have become dumping grounds for young and middle-age people with mental illness, according to Associated Press interviews and an analysis of data from all 50 states.”
She writes that younger, stronger residents with mental illness are living alongside frail elderly residents, a situation that she calls a “prescription for violence.”
Numbers obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and prepared exclusively for the AP by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show nearly 125,000 young and middle-aged adults with serious mental illness lived in U.S. nursing homes last year.
Those numbers represent a sharp increase – 41 percent – from 2002.
Trends Johnson identifies as driving the problem:
- The closing of state mental institutions and a shortage of hospital psychiatric beds
- Nursing homes have beds to fill because today’s elderly are healthier than those before them and more likely to stay in their homes.
- Mixing the mentally ill with the elderly makes economic sense for states. As long as a nursing home’s mentally ill population stays under 50 percent, the federal government will help pay for the residents’ care under Medicaid.