Officials say the state-run database tracking available hospital beds for psychiatric patients soon will be “closer to accurate” with twice-daily updates. The tracking system was created after two of the state’s four Mental Health Institutes were closed in 2015.

“The software we use is called ‘Care Match’ and it tracks the available inpatient psychiatric beds at the MHIs as well as the 26 hospitals that have psychiatric services,” says Theresa Armstrong of the Iowa Department of Human Services.

Those 26 hospitals and the Mental Health Institutes in Cherokee and Independence have been reporting openings. However, there was no state rule for how often the updates were to be made. A new state regulation will require the facilities to update their list of openings for patients who need in-patient psychiatric care twice a day.

“It would assure that the information in the system would be closer to accurate,” she says. “Folks, on average, probably stay in a bed for about two days, maybe three days, so there is a lot of turnover and we do see if from morning to afternoon.”

According to Armstrong, “most” Iowa hospitals with in-patient psychiatric care have been updating the list regularly.

“At least, probably, 90 to 95 percent of the hospitals on a daily basis are updating it,” Armstrong says.

The state database is being used by hospital staff as well as local officials helping police and sheriffs’ departments find in-patient care for someone suffering from an acute mental health crisis. Critics have complain the database hasn’t been offering “real time” information about available hospital beds for psychiatric patients.

A bill passed by the Iowa legislature last year called for twice-a-day updates to this database. A rule implementing that requirement was approved today by a legislative review panel.