Objective: A method was sought to help administrators of community mental health centers determine a level of psychiatric staffing that is both cost-efficient and ensures high quality of care. Methods: A survey of staff psychiatrists was conducted at a large community mental health center with seven outpatient clinics. The survey measured variables that can affect staffing requirements, including the number of hours psychiatrists have available for direct care, their preferred intervals between a patient's return visits, and the duration of appointments for an initial psychiatric assessment and for medication maintenance. A computer spreadsheet was developed to calculate the caseload capacity and intake capacity for clinics of the center. Results: The survey indicated that the psychiatrists at the center had an average of 33 hours a week available for direct care. The mean preferred time between a patient's medication maintenance visits was 7.3 weeks. The mean time required for a psychiatric assessment was 80 minutes, and for a medication maintenance visit it was 33 minutes. With these data, the spreadsheet method was used to calculate intake and caseload capacity for psychiatric staff at three of the center's clinics. Conclusions: The data- based approach to calculating capacity can be modified to meet local needs. It brings objectivity to decision making about staffing, and the methods can improve resource management and enhance relationships between stakeholders and physicians.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health