Behavioral health facility demand strengthening

A new report from Colliers International signals there is a rising demand for behavioral health services in the US.

Construction for behavioral health hospitals has increased dramatically since 2017, according to the report. In 2018, the supply level was 3.8 million square feet. By 2019, that figure more than doubled to 8.1 million square feet. In 2020, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector is still growing with 6.4 million square feet set to deliver this year.

While construction costs are declining due to the pandemic, the costs for behavioral health hospitals are expected to hold steady in 2020 at $403.60 per square foot, which is up from $346.80 per square foot just in 2018.

The report states that while in any given year one in four Americans is impacted by behavioral health conditions there is a shortage of behavioral health physicians. Kaiser Foundation research found the US was only fulfilling around 44% of its need for mental healthcare professionals. One of the biggest factors affecting the shortage is the cost of care.

Colliers found the average cost per bed in a behavioral health asset averages $330,000. The Advisory Board said that treating patients with behavioral health diagnoses costs $900 more per month than for patients with no behavioral health diagnosis. As a result, less than half of patients receive treatment, according to Colliers.

And now, COVID-19 is placing an unprecedented impact on behavioral health services. In late March, a McKinsey survey found 63% of respondents were feeling anxious, depressed or both.

“The anxiety, stress, financial strife, grief, and general uncertainty of this time will undoubtedly lead to behavioral health crises,” McKinsey said in their survey.

The pandemic has signaled the greater need to integrate both physical and behavioral health. The company stated that integration between the two services could help lessen the shortage of people getting help. Colliers echoed that sentiment by stating “the majority of patients with a behavioral health diagnosis also have a medical comorbidity.” One of the suggestions from Colliers is screening in both physical and behavioral health settings.

Moving forward, Colliers said the success of behavioral health services is dependent on a system where physical and behavioral conditions are treated together and where private/public partnerships occur more often. The 10 largest behavioral health hospitals in the U.S. are all either government-run or owned by nonprofits.

They note that the success of Orange County, CA initiative BeWell OC is just one example of what the healthcare system could look like in the future. The “wellness hub” was a public/private development.

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