Decades-old rule pushes mentally ill Coloradans out of hospitals too soon. Legislators may finally change it.

December 11, 2023

By: Seth Klammann

Barbara Vassis keeps a spreadsheet to track her daughter’s years-long journey through Colorado’s patchwork mental health system.

The sheet goes back 11 years, a third of Erin’s life. There are holes in the narrative: Her daughter is schizophrenic bipolar, Vassis said, and she’s moved around different parts of the country. Still, even incomplete, Vassis’ growing tracker provides a glimpse at the revolving doors that Erin and hundreds of other Coloradans are stuck in every year.

From April 2021 to April 2022, for instance, Erin spent 106 days bouncing between emergency rooms, detox facilities, hospital beds, homeless shelters and crisis centers. During that time, she never spent more than two weeks at a time in one hospital, Vassis said. Instead, she repeatedly was discharged within a fortnight, still unstable, thanks to a decades-old Medicaid rule that often forces the early discharge of low-income, mentally ill patients.

Read the full article in The Denver Post