Medicare sets standards for mental health centers

The Medicare agency on Thursday announced its intention to start regulating health and safety standards at Community Mental Health Centers for the first time.

About 25,000 Medicare beneficiaries receive care at such centers every year, according to the agency. The centers provide intensive outpatient psychiatric services for patients with acute mental illness as an alternative to inpatient care.

Medicare is accepting public comments until Aug. 16 and will respond with a final rule "in the coming months." The centers would have to meet the standards to enroll as a Medicare provider and to continue participating in the program.