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Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Celebration, Sunday, June 9, 2019, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo) Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Celebration, Sunday, June 9, 2019, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo)

Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Celebration, Sunday, June 9, 2019, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo)

Sophie Austin
By Sophie Austin June 13, 2019

Amy Klobuchar right about state psychiatric bed shortages

After an interview with MSNBC host Chris Hayes, Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar, a senator from Minnesota, said in a tweet June 7 that the U.S. needs to do more to support mental health patients.

"Millions of Americans need mental health care. Yet in Iowa, there are just 64 public mental health care beds. And you see similar numbers across the country," she tweeted.

We wanted to see if Klobuchar, who proposed a plan in May 2019 to allocate $100 billion toward mental health treatments, was correct in her statement about psychiatric beds in Iowa and nationwide.

Psychiatric inpatient beds in Iowa

A Klobuchar campaign spokesperson sent us a 2016 article from WQAD, a local TV station in Iowa, which mentions the 64 beds figure. The Treatment Advocacy Center, an organization that pushes for mental health treatment accessibility, documents in a report that there were 64 state psychiatric inpatient beds for adults in Iowa in 2016.

Typically, patients need psychiatric inpatient bed treatment because they are at risk of harming themselves or others or are unable to take care of themselves, said Dr. Peg Nopoulos, the chairperson of the University of Iowa’s Department of Psychiatry.

"Mental health still has a horrible stigma, and it gets treated separately and differently than other medical problems for unclear reasons. It shouldn’t be," Nopoulos said.

In January 2019, there were 64 staffed psychiatric beds for adults younger than 55 at the mental health institutes in Iowa, according to Iowa Department of Human Services data sent to PolitiFact from department spokesperson Matt Highland.

In addition to beds at Iowa’s public mental health institutes, there are 44 psychiatric beds for adults younger than 65 and 15 for adults of any age at University of Iowa Health Care, a medical center which receives state funding, according to Nopoulos. Those additional 15 beds are for patients who have psychiatric and other medical issues.

The Treatment Advocacy Center ranked Iowa last out of all 50 states for number of public psychiatric beds available per capita, which results in people having to endure long waits before receiving treatment, "if they are admitted at all," the center states.

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Psychiatric inpatient beds nationwide

In 2017, an estimated 11.2 million, or 4.5% of U.S. adults, lived with serious mental illness, with 7.5 million receiving treatment during the previous year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Public hospitals with psychiatric beds (sometimes called state hospitals) provide critical services. Because they are funded by local, state and federal funds, they cannot turn away people who need treatment, regardless of how much money they have.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that adults suffering from mental illnesses who live below the poverty line face an additional set of challenges, including higher health care costs. Poverty may also increase the likelihood of mental illness or intensify the experience of mental illness.

An estimated 25.5% of U.S. adults with a serious mental illness lives below the poverty line, according to the administration’s 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

The Treatment Advocacy Center recommends a minimum of 50 beds for every 100,000 people "to provide a minimally adequate treatment for individuals with severe mental illnesses."

There are two beds available at Iowa’s mental health institutes for every 100,000 people in the state, according to the Iowa Department of Human Services data. (If you wanted to include the University of Iowa beds, the number of beds would still be very low, and less than four per 100,000)

In total, there were 11.7 psychiatric beds per 100,000 people in state hospitals in the U.S., according to the Treatment Advocacy Center 2016 report.

Our ruling

Klobuchar tweeted, "Millions of Americans need mental health care. Yet in Iowa, there are just 64 public mental health care beds. And you see similar numbers across the country."

Iowa’s Department of Human Services data show that there were 64 staffed psychiatric beds for adults in public hospitals, as of January 2019. The figure does not include beds available at the University of Iowa Health Care, which receives state funding, but the number of beds per capita is still very low compared to other states.

Millions of Americans are living with serious mental illnesses, and 3.7 million U.S. adults living with serious mental illnesses did not receive treatment the year before the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health was conducted.

We rate Klobuchar’s claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

Tweet from Amy Klobuchar, June 7, 2019

Treatment Advocacy Center, Going, Going, Gone: Trends and Consequences of Eliminating State Psychiatric Beds, 2016, June 2016

Iowa Department of Human Services, Inpatient Psychiatric Hospital Beds, June 8, 2016

The Des Moine Register, Editorial: Iowa ranks last for state psychiatric beds, June 11, 2016

Email exchange with Klobuchar campaign spokesperson, June 7, 2019

Medium, Amy’s Plan to Combat Addiction and Prioritize Mental Health, May 3, 2019

Email exchange with Matt Highland, Iowa Department of Human SErvices Public Information Officer, June, 10, 2019

Phone interview with Peg Nopoulos, chairperson of University of Iowa’s Department of Psychiatry, June 10, 2019

Treatment Advocacy Center, Iowa, accessed June 10, 2019

National Institute of Mental Health, Mental Illness, accessed June 10, 2019

WQAD, New study puts Iowa 49th in nation for mental health services, June 15, 2016

Treatment Advocacy Center, accessed June 7, 2019

Treatment Advocacy Center, Iowa Reflects on Its Failures in Mental Health Treatment, accessed June 11, 2019

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Serious Mental Illness Among Adults Below the Poverty Line, Nov. 15, 2016

National Procedures Institute, The Pros and Cons of Public vs. Private Hospitals, accessed June 11, 2019

Email exchange with Matt Farrauto, Treatment Advocacy Center communications director, June 7-12, 2019

Amy Klobuchar right about state psychiatric bed shortages

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