The number of mental patients checking into the state's four mental institutions for stays of up to a week skyrocketed more than 82 percent from 2001-2005. That's the result of fewer local services and dwindling space offered at community hospitals. State hospitals are often the only choice for people who suffer a mental-health crisis, but turnover is often too fast and many are admitted multiple times. The hospitals can't force stable patients to stay and often lack room to accommodate those who want to remain. Some who've been released too early have killed themselves shortly after being released, while others end up in jails, homeless shelters, drug treatment programs or emergency rooms. Changes made in 2001 were supposed to shift more treatment to community hospitals, special crisis centers and homes. But that change has been slow in many places. The resulting turnover has federal investigators reviewing the situation.


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