- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Announces $2.9 Million Grant Program To Help Mitigate Mental Health Boarding Crisis
Thomas Dalton, Deputy Press Secretary
BOSTON — Attorney General Maura Healey has announced a new $2.9 million grant program that aims to mitigate the severe impact of patients in hospital emergency departments and inpatient beds across Massachusetts that are in urgent need of mental health care.
The AG’s Mental Health Diversionary Services Grant program will be funded in part from the nearly $1 million received as part of the AG’s behavioral health parity settlements in 2019 and 2020. The grant program will support nonprofit organizations in Massachusetts that provide services that appropriately divert patients in need of urgent mental health care to access treatment without needing to go through a hospital’s emergency department.
The heightened demand for urgent mental health services, and the impact of the shortage of such services on Massachusetts hospitals, prompted the AG’s Office to launch this grant program.
“As we see an increased demand for mental health services, it is vital that patients and families can access the appropriate care they need,” said AG Healey. “This grant program will help connect patients in crisis with more immediate mental health support while alleviating the strain on overwhelmed hospitals.”
Emergency department boarding happens when a patient in need of mental health services must wait in an emergency department or medical-surgical bed—sometimes for days or even weeks— until a psychiatric bed, or other appropriate services, become available. Emergency department boarding of mental health patients has been a longstanding issue in Massachusetts but has increased dramatically in recent years. Conditions contributing to the so-called boarding crisis, including the increased demand for mental health services and staffing shortages, have escalated the need for the type of community-based crisis care that will be funded through this grant program.
The Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association (MHA) publishes weekly data provided by Massachusetts acute care hospitals on the number of patients who are waiting in the hospital for a mental health evaluation or for an available psychiatric inpatient bed. A data “snapshot” from October 11, the most recent MHA report, shows 593 total patients in these categories, including 100 pediatric patients.
Examples of eligible services under the AG’s grant program include community- or home-based crisis or urgent mental health services; nonclinical mental health crisis alternatives, such as respite services; and home-based intensive support and care coordination following a patient’s discharge from a hospital’s emergency department. Grantees may use the funds to create new programming, expand capacity of current programs/services, or sustain capacity where current funding sources have fallen short.
Applicants may seek grants of up to $250,000 over a two-year period. Interested applicants can visit the AG’s website for more information and for application instructions. Applications must be received by 5 p.m. on November 16, 2022.