Aims – Psychiatric hospitals remain the main venue for long-term mental health care and, despite widespread closures and downsizing, no country that built asylums in the last century has done away with them entirely – with the recent exception of Italy. Differentiated community-based residential alternatives have been developed over the past decades, with staffing levels that range from full-time professional, to daytime only, to part-time/on-call. Methods – This paper reviews the characteristics of community-based psychiatric residential care facilities as an alternative to long-term care in psychiatric hospitals. It describes five factors decision makers should consider: 1. number of residential places needed; 2. staffing levels; 3. physical setting; 4. programming; and 5. governance and financing. Results – In Italy, facilities with full-time professional staff have been developed since the mid-1990s to accommodate the last cohorts of patients discharged from psychiatric hospitals. In the United Kingdom, experiments with hostel wards since the 1980s have shown that home-like, small-scale facilities with intensive treatment and rehabilitation programming can be effective for the most difficult-to-place patients. More recently in Australia, Community Care Units (CCUs) have been applying this concept. In the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC), Tertiary Psychiatric Residential Facilities (TPRFs) have been developed as part of an effort to regionalise health and social services and downsize and ultimately close its only psychiatric hospital. Conclusions – This type of service must be further developed in addition to the need for forensic, acute-care and intermediate-level beds, as well as for community-based care such as assertive community treatment and intensive case management. All these types of services, together with long-term community-based residential care, constitute the elements of a balanced mental health care system. As part of a region's balanced mental health care plan, these Tertiary Psychiatric Care Facilities have the potential to act as hubs of expertise not only for treatment, rehabilitation, community integration and ser-vice co-ordination for the severely mentally ill, but also for research and training.
Declaration of Interest: None.