Fayette County had the highest rate of hospitalization for mental disorders in the Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area last year, according to research recently released by an independent state agency that collects, analyzes and reports on the cost and quality of health care in the state.
The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council found that Fayette County had 118.1 hospitalizations for mental disorders per 10,000 county residents in 2018, 1,541 in total. That rate was 11th-highest among Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
Beaver County had the next highest rate in the seven-county Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area at 97.8. Washington County’s rate was 81.1, while Westmoreland County’s was 94.2. Greene County, which is not part of the Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area, had a rate of 98.1.
“Providing this information by county can help communities understand needs at the local level,” said Joe Martin, executive director of PHC4.
“We find that all too often people relate to physical health-related conditions but do not understand what they do not see,” said Marianne Miele, director of health impact at Highlands Hospital.
At Highlands Hospital, patient assessment is initiated in the emergency department with a medical evaluation. Psychiatric staff are consulted for possible admission to the acute care unit once the patient is medically cleared. An individualized treatment plan is developed by a multidisciplinary team upon admission.
While some patients may be aware that they need to seek treatment, others may be directed to the emergency room because of behaviors deemed unsafe.
“We feel it is our responsibility to change the trajectory and eliminate the stigma associated with those who are suffering in silence,” said Susan Mongell, director of behavioral health services at Highlands Hospital.
There were 6,884 hospitalizations for mental disorders across Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties in 2018, according to PHC4 research. That’s an average of 18.9 per day.
Pennsylvanians were admitted to hospitals for treatment of mental disorders 113,704 times and spent a total of 1,162,371 days in hospitals in 2018, according to PHC4 research, an average of 312 admissions per day. The average stay was 10.2 days (8.6 days in acute care hospitals, 12.3 in psychiatric hospitals).
Carbon County had the highest rate in Pennsylvania at 147.3, Fulton the lowest at 40.6.
PHC4 found that more than half of the patients admitted for treatment of mental disorders last year (50.8% or 57,738) were aged 18 to 44. Patients 45 to 64 comprised 27.2% (30,892), followed by those 17 and younger (14.8% or 16,779), and patients 65 and older (7.3% or 8,295).
Depression was easily the most frequent reason for mental disorder admission (44%), followed by schizophrenia (20.7%) and bipolar disorder (20.2%). Suicidal patients accounted for 4.2%.
According to PHC4, residents of high poverty areas were more than three times as likely to be admitted for treatment of mental disorders as those living in lower poverty areas. Areas where more than 25% lived in poverty had a rate of 163.3 admissions per 10,000 residents, while the rate was 53 in areas where up to only 5% lived in poverty.
The rate of admissions was 154 for black residents, 81.7 for white residents and 67.9 for Hispanic residents.
Highlands Hospital determined a need to increase its capacity to provide inpatient and outpatient behavioral health treatment, unveiling a newly renovated 14-bed Extended Acute Care Behavioral Health Unit earlier this year.
“It is our goal to empower the community in recognizing and treating mental health related illnesses,” Mongell said.
Reporter Rick Shrum contributed to this article.