Scripps is bound by law to protect patient privacy, so we cannot speak to specifics of any patient case. However, we can say that we totally disagree with the action filed today by the San Diego city attorney regarding Scripps Mercy Hospital. We believe their claims have no merit, are completely outrageous and are unwarranted. Importantly, this case was referred to the California Department of Public Health, which found no deficiencies in the actions of Scripps Mercy. It is unconscionable for the City Attorney to try to use this case to misrepresent the great work Scripps Mercy does in serving thousands of homeless and mentally ill patients each year. We look forward to defending ourselves in court.
Taking care of the region’s most vulnerable patients is not a business for us, it is our mission. We would never engage in patient dumping. We believe no hospital in San Diego is more dedicated to serving the needs of patients with behavioral health issues or those experiencing homelessness than is Scripps Mercy. We strive to provide all of them with exceptional care.
To provide some more perspective, from January 2020 to March 2021, we had 11,487 homeless patient visits. We saw 57,211 patients with psychiatric issues in our emergency department in fiscal year 2019. And, in fiscal year 2020, Scripps Mercy covered more than $10 million in the direct cost of care for patients who had no other means to pay. That’s just a snapshot. The thousands of patient visits and the caring for them continues.
We find it unbelievable that the City Attorney’s office would portray our role in this case the way they are and that they would use it to disparage the great work the staff at Mercy does day in and day out to help the most vulnerable among us.
With every behavioral health patient, we work to resolve issues and alleviate symptoms that led to their hospitalization, reduce the risk of dangerous behavior, and increase their coping skills to help them live more effectively in the community. When these goals are met, our dedicated staff develops a discharge plan closely integrated with community services to encourage ongoing care and to help patients return to their families and communities. When the patient is ready to return to the community, we offer social worker-assisted placements in long-term residential or short-term crisis housing, board and care, and skilled nursing facilities when needed; services and referral facilitation for chemical dependency, psychiatric and medical home health nursing; and referral facilitation to licensed professionals, continuing care and community support groups.
But San Diego is facing a behavioral health crisis. Everyone knows someone affected. And we need more of everything to help those affected -- more psychiatric hospital beds and long-term care options, better care coordination, more outpatient and supportive services.
And San Diego is facing a homelessness crisis – one that we see at Scripps Mercy every day. It’s part of our mission to serve the underserved, and before patients who have no home leave our care, we connect them with community resources so they can get needed treatment and shelter, we clothe them, and support them in many other ways. Still, more is needed to help those experiencing homelessness.
Solutions to the behavioral health and homelessness crises are not easy, and they are not single-faceted. This requires a comprehensive approach from agencies and organizations throughout the region. We are dedicated to being part of those solutions. We have been here helping thousands of behavioral health and homeless patients every year, for generations. And we will be here for generations to come.
Our doctors, nurses and support staffs at Scripps Mercy and across the Scripps Health system have worked tirelessly over the past 18 months caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. They remain strong today, even as new cases and hospitalizations continue to rise. Their dedication, compassion and professionalism further underscore Scripps’ deep commitment to the communities we serve.