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SAMHSA News - Volume X, No. 2, Spring 2002

Screening Nursing Home Applicants for Mental Illness

SAMHSA has released a new guide to understanding Federal requirements in screening for mental illness in nursing home applicants. Under Federal law, all applicants for admission to a nursing facility must be screened to identify those suspected of having a mental illness, and those suspected of having serious mental illness must be referred to a more indepth assessment called the Preadmission Screening and Resident Review (PASRR).

The purpose of the PASRR screen is to determine whether a prospective nursing facility resident requires the level of services (medical/physical) that the nursing facility provides. Furthermore, this screen also must determine if an applicant needs specialized mental health services. A new PASRR assessment also is required when a nursing facility resident's physical or mental status changes.

The PASRR program has been in place since the early 1990s, as part of the Nursing Home Reform Act. Federal PASRR Regulations provide some leeway in interpretation of policy to the states, resulting in some variation in implementation. This report of PASRR policy, prepared by SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services, is based on a review and comparison of current law, regulations, and state guidance. It is intended to help state and local authorities and nursing facilities understand their responsibilities for ensuring appropriate admission and treatment of individuals with mental illness applying to and residing in nursing facilities.

To obtain a copy of the new report, Screening for Mental Illness in Nursing Facility Applicants: Understanding Federal Requirements, contact SAMHSA's National Mental Health Information Center at P.O. Box 42557, Washington, DC 20015. Telephone: 1 (800) 789-CMHS (4267), or (866) 889-2647 (TTD). The report can also be viewed at SAMHSA's Web site at

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