Social workers at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital
Psychiatric social workers Carrie Dillon (left) and Jacqueline Rivera (right) work at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital on Sept. 20, 2022. They are tasked with finding step-down placements for patients who need additional care after they leave the hospital.ditional support after they leave the hospital. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

This post originally published in the Sept. 28 Morning Report.

The county wants to add hundreds of new community-based behavioral health beds to transform its currently clogged system.

County behavioral health officials on Tuesday briefed county supervisors on a plan that focuses on adding beds outside hospitals and instead in less-restrictive facilities such as skilled nursing homes and places they have dubbed respite centers. The goal is to, over time, reduce the need for expensive crisis services and connect those in need with care that can meet their needs at the least restrictive level possible.

Luke Bergmann, the county’s behavioral health services director, said the county and an outside contractor estimated the region needs nearly 400 new long-term care beds alone. He said a recent county pivot away from a plan to build a behavioral health hub on county property in Hillcrest and instead to a contract with Prime Healthcare opens up possibilities for the county to deliver resources such as dwindling board-and-care beds and recuperative care beds for people stepping down from hospitals at county-owned properties in Hillcrest and Midway. The county is considering a similar model in East County.

The Union-Tribune did a deep dive on the county plan and our Lisa Halverstadt last week explained how a years-long shortage of long-term care options has been exacerbated by the pandemic and the state’s new CARE Court policy could put more pressure on the system.

Bergmann said county officials will return to supervisors on Oct. 11 to provide more details on its strategy to add behavioral health beds.

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

Join the Conversation


  1. From the Web “…Treating patients in a JBCT program is much less costly than treating them in a state hospital. Specifically, JBCT beds cost an average of $125,000 annually while state hospital beds cost an average of $215,000 annually.Feb 22, 2017….”

    Seems to me that creating housing might be a cheaper first step and either cure or ameliorate living in the open without heating, a bathroom, kitchen, privacy ….etc. Note that the $125,000/yr. (five years ago) is $10,000/mo.

Leave a comment
We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.