Psychiatric Boarding Project

Thank you to those who joined us on December 6th for the Pediatric and Adolescent Boarding Summit! 
The event was a great sucess. Over 130 healthcare providers, insurance companies, parents, advocates, legislative offices staff, and senior level state agencies staff attended the event and shared their expertise and ideas for solving the problem of pediatric ED boarding.


Since its beginning, the CMHC has been concerned about issues of access to children’s mental health services and has been committed to comprehensive system reform. Aligned with this aim, the CMHC has received a grant from the C.F. Adams Charitable Trust for a 3-year project whose goal is to develop a better understanding of the factors which contribute to pediatric psychiatric "boarding" and ultimately, to successfully advocate for solutions.

Boarding occurs when a person in the Emergency Department (ED) requires inpatient care, but there are no appropriate psychiatric placements available, leading to longer stays in hospital EDs or on non-psychiatric medical units. More recently these children are “boarding at home”- where the child in crisis is sent home with in-home crisis stabilization services as support. 

Many children with mental health disorders do not access treatment until there is a crisis, at which point the ED becomes the point of entry into the mental health system.  Despite many changes for the better in the child mental health system, children in psychiatric crisis are still sitting in ED across the Commonwealth awaiting care. While children sit in the ED or medical units awaiting placements, they are not receiving the treatment they were assessed to require.  Boarding creates a multitude of stressors for children, families, health care providers, and hospitals across the Commonwealth. 

The Campaign's boarding project has two interrelated key elements: data gathering and analysis, and policy development and advocacy. 

Data Gathering and Analysis

Hospital/ Provider Data
For the past 12 months, we collected data from ten Emergency Departments from across the state in addition to inpatient and intensive service providers across the state.Data collection, which began in January of 2016 and continued through December 2016, occured every weekday for one week each month and continued through 2016.  

Two types of data was gathered:

Individual Level Data

  • The “Demographics Background Form” was filled out by the hospitals once for each patient that is boarding during the week of data collection.  This captures information about the child or adolescent who is boarding, when s/he arrived, and extensive information about clinical and other characteristics.
  • The “Daily Bed Finding Form” was filled out daily by the hospitals during collection week for each child or adolescent who is boarding.

System Level Data

Project staff collecteddata from the inpatient and other intensive services across the state in order to evaluate the interaction between boarding and other “stuck” places in the system. 

  • Child and adolescent inpatient and partial hospital programs data was collected daily, to understand bed availability, movement of patients in and out of units, and reasons units may not be at full census.
  • The Community Based Acute Treatment (CBAT) and Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI) services data was collected once per week to get a snapshot of waitlists for community-based stabilization and diversionary services.

Caregiver Survey

During the last year, PPAL developed and distributed a survey to gather information from caregivers about their experiences with boarding. The survey is comprised of 49 multiple choice questions and concludes with one open ended request for additional narrative comments. During the spring of 2016 PPAL completed a preliminary assessment of the survey data and conduct targeted focus groups with parents and other stakeholders to more deeply assess specific issues which have emerged from the survey. 

Request for Information (RFI) regarding Specialty Inpatient Beds

The project team advocated for EOHHS/DMH to release a Request for Information (RFI) to current and prospective pediatric psychiatric inpatient providers to get feedback on models for developing specialty inpatient units. The RFI in October of 2016. These units would include beds for children with co-occurring conditions including autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities, substance use disorders, chronic medical conditions, and those who are seriously assaultive or dangerous. The RFI sought information about the staffing, models of care, site requirements and reimbursement levels that would be necessary to develop and sustain these services.

Policy Development and Advocacy

Legal Advocacy
Working with members of the project advisory committee, Health Law Advocates will assess avenues for potential legal action to address boarding in the following areas:

  • Reasonable promptness under Medicaid law;
  • Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment;
  • The MA Mental Health Parity law, in particular the provision that requires coverage of mental disorders to include a range of services that permit medically necessary and active and non-custodial treatment to take place in the least restrictive clinically appropriate setting; and
  • The non-quantitative treatment limitation (NQTL) provisions of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), in particular, provider reimbursement rates and methodologies and standards for provider admission to participate in a network.

Stakeholder Summit
CMHC hosted a stakeholder summit on December 6th, 2016. The day was a sucess! Over 130 healthcare providers, insurance companies, parents, advocates, legislative offices staff, and senior level state agencies staff attended the event and shared their expertise and ideas for solving the problem of pediatric ED boarding.

The work of the summit will form the foundation of a set of recommendations which will be advanced by the CMHC and its partners.