Right to an appropriate discharge plan
For inpatients on a psychiatric unit getting ready to leave the hospital, the law requires a discharge plan. If done correctly, it ensures that the person will receive the services needed upon return to the community. Section 29.15 of the Mental Hygiene Law spells out the step-by-step procedures that hospitals must follow to develop a proper discharge plan. Before discharge, the hospital must:
1.Prepare a written service plan, which includes:
(1) a statement of the patient’s needs for housing, supervision, medication, psychiatric treatment and employment. This means that the hospital must determine what services are needed when the patient leaves the hospital, and
(2) an evaluation of needs and eligibility for benefits. This means that the hospital must try to determine the public benefits for which the patient is eligible.
2. Help with the application for benefits, including Public Assistance, Medicaid, food stamps, and SSI/SSDI, before discharge.
3. Actually discharge the patient in accordance with the plan. This means that the hospital must provide the link to services that have been identified in the written service plan. For example, if the plan states a need for supportive housing, mental health treatment and public benefits, the hospital must coordinate these services for the patient before release from the hospital. Also, a hospital cannot discharge the patient to the street, a shelter, flop house, or a facility without a current and valid license. It should be noted that all patients in need of services have the right to choose whether or not they want to take advantage of their discharge planning rights. No patient can be forced to accept discharge planning services.
4. In addition, the law states that the following people have the right to participate actively in developing the discharge plan: the patient, an authorized representative that the patient has chosen, and – at the patient’s request – a significant individual such as a friend, family member or other outside advocate.