APA Releases Guidance on Admittance, Discharge of Psychiatric Patients During COVID-19

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 4, 2020 – The American Psychiatric Association (APA) today issued guidance on the admittance and release of psychiatric patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance is in response to efforts to either deny admittance to or prematurely release psychiatric patients under the guise of avoiding COVID-19 infection.

“It is simply irresponsible to prematurely release patients with serious mental illness from psychiatric inpatient settings into communities ill-prepared to treat them,” said APA President Jeffrey Geller, M.D., M.P.H. “Every patient should be in an environment where they receive treatment, care and supervision appropriate to their needs. Inpatient psychiatric units and hospitals are not hotbeds of COVID-19 infection, and in many instances are the safest alternative in the community.”

The guidance, passed by the APA Board of Trustees, states:

  • Premature discharge of patients from psychiatric hospitals and inpatient psychiatric units is unreasonable as this practice exposes patients, families and the community at large to the risks of harmful and adverse outcomes irrespective of communicable disease outbreaks
  • During communicable disease outbreaks, referral of patients to any psychiatric setting should balance efforts to match patients’ mental health needs with the appropriate level of care while considering the potential risks of the communicable disease at each level of care.
  • Each level of psychiatric care during such outbreaks should provide safe and appropriate treatment, including adequate protection from the risk of infection from the communicable disease.

“The guidance provided by the APA Board is intended to help our psychiatrist members ensure that their patients who need in-patient treatment can continue to get that treatment during this pandemic,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “We will continue to advocate for the best treatment for our patients while protecting them during this pandemic.”

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,800 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information please visit www.psychiatry.org.

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