Key Facts about Mental Illness and Bournewood Hospital

Many people don't understand how psychiatric hospitals like Bournewood operate. Here are some facts about mental illness and how such hospitals serve their patients.

  • Mental illness doesn't discriminate. It can strike anyone at any age.
  • A recent study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the prevalence of mental illness at any given moment is 30.5 percent of the population in the United States.
  • The study also reported that of all people who suffer from this condition, only one-third receive treatment.
  • When mental illness is left untreated, it can manifest itself over time into more severe symptoms that may require admission to a psychiatric hospital or the psychiatric unit of a general hospital.
  • The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) currently provides most of the long-term treatment for patients suffering from chronic mental illness, while private psychiatric hospitals such as Bournewood and inpatient psychiatric units of general hospitals provide most of the care for acutely ill patients.
  • The types of diagnoses that Bournewood typically treats include depression, bipolar disorder, mood disorders, schizophrenia, alcohol and drug dependency and dual diagnosis.
  • Bournewood's inpatient units are locked but patients have access to fresh air in secure outdoor spaces. Most psychiatric hospitals have similar capacities.
  • Bournewood is licensed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Mental Health for 90 beds.
  • The significant need for psychiatric care is demonstrated by the high occupancy levels of Bournewood and other psychiatric facilities.
  • Patients are referred through local hospital emergency rooms, crisis centers, insurance providers, primary care physicians, mental health professionals, families and themselves.
  • Prior approval is required by insurance providers. To meet the criteria for inpatient psychiatric treatment, patients must demonstrate that they are unable to function or care for themselves due to mental illness.
  • When a patient, or the patient's legal guardian, willingly signs the admission papers to enter Bournewood, he or she is considered a voluntary patient.
  • Voluntary patients maintain their civil rights even when they sign in to a facility like Bournewood. This means that they are free to leave on their own accord at any time, unless the treatment team or psychiatrist believes they pose a threat to themselves or others.
  • Patients who are admitted against their will are considered involuntary patients.
  • Involuntary patients have the right to sign in voluntarily. If they refuse, all psychiatric hospitals are required by law to release them back to the community unless they pose an imminent risk of harm to themselves or others.
  • In such cases, if a patient is considered to present a threat or danger, the court must be petitioned to have the patient legally committed by a district judge. The judge's decision is binding.
  • Psychiatric hospitals, including Bournewood, are required by regulation to accept people who are referred for treatment of mental illness. They cannot pick and choose their patients.
  • The average length of stay today for Bournewood's patients is seven days. This has declined from an average stay of 16 days just a decade ago. The reasons for this change are that there are more intensive inpatient and outpatient treatment options today, there are a greater number of step-down programs and community-based services and there have been remarkable advances in pharmacology. All of these improvements have enabled patients to spend less time in an inpatient setting.
  • Bournewood admits more than 3,800 inpatients and close to 1,000 partial hospital program patients each year.