Mobile teams and new medication helping take Czech psychiatric care out of institutions

Illustrative photo: Free-Photos / Pixabay, CC0

Psychiatric care in the Czech Republic has been profiting from a trend towards external care, which keeps psychiatric institutions from overflowing and lets patients function in society. To support this development, the Health Ministry set up special mobile psychiatric teams in 2018 and plans to create up to 100 in the future. But securing financing from health insurance companies may prove crucial.

Illustrative photo: Free-Photos / Pixabay,  CC0
Czech psychiatric care used to be characterised by large, isolated facilities built on the outskirts of towns.

However, there is a growing trend of bringing care directly to patients and keeping them as active members of society, says Jan Boček from Czech Radio’s data journalism team, who has been analysing the Health Ministry’s statistics.

“We can see in data from the past 25 years that hospitalisation numbers in psychiatric wards remain largely the same. What is increasing, however, is the number of visits to psychiatric out-patient stations. These two trends show that psychiatric help is moving closer to patients, their homes and transforming into a sort of mobile service.”

Since 2018 the Health Ministry has been forming mobile psychiatric teams that are based in specially created mental health centres but operate as mobile units, visiting clients in their own homes.

Currently, five teams are active, but Minister Adam Vojtěch says he wants to create 30 within the next two years with the target being around 100 in the future.

According to the minister, this target is part of a long-term plan that seeks to reduce the number of occupied beds in institutions.

Mr. Boček says that the increasing use of mobile teams is also possible thanks to new medications, whose side effects do not impair mobility or other important neurological functions. He says the mobile teams feature a mix of specialists designed to complement each other.

“These mobile teams are made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, peer workers and social workers, who visit patients so that they can function at home. This includes those suffering from schizophrenia and serious depression.”

Jan Boček,  photo: archive of Czech Radio
Another step towards increasing external care is a reform in the ministry’s financing system, which currently motivates institutions to provide long-term treatment.

The mental health centres that house the mobile teams are currently paid for by EU funds, but the ministry hopes to eventually have health insurance companies pay for treatment.

This aim was also the reason behind a special memorandum signed by the Health Ministry and insurance company representatives, which deals with acute psychiatric treatment.

According to Mr. Boček the question of securing long-term financing is crucial to the success of the promising program.

Asked about whether there could be any serious challenges, he says that decentralising could prove more difficult than on paper.

“In the Czech Republic it is generally hard to bring about any form of decentralisation, whether it is in health, social care or education, so it is hard to push through modern trends.”