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Report calls out NH for slow response to mentally ill

Staff Report
January 08. 2017 10:27PM

CONCORD — The state is moving too slowly in making improvements to assist the mentally ill and court action may be needed to force the state to comply with a 2013 settlement, according to a new report.

“If substantial progress is not clearly evident ... by the time of the next six-month report, the ER will have to consider what other compliance enforcement mechanisms may be necessary, including possible involvement by the court,” wrote an expert reviewer (ER) who prepared a semi-annual report on the state’s progress

The 94-page report is required under the settlement with the Disability Rights Center-NH, which in 2012 sued the state, saying its lack of services violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and asking a federal judge to order New Hampshire to expand community services and crisis intervention programs.

Under terms of a 2013 agreement, the state was required to expand services for severely mentally ill individuals.

By 2017, state officials were required to expand community treatment teams to remain on call 24 hours a day statewide while establishing several mobile teams to keep individuals suffering a mental health episode out of hospital emergency rooms. The pact also called for expanded employment assistance and housing opportunities for the mentally ill.

The report can be viewed below:

The state Department of Health and Human Services has committed more staffing and leadership resources, the report said, but “progress toward compliance over the past six months has been relatively minor and therefore far short of the significant and substantial progress identified as necessary for meeting the standards and requirements” of the agreement.

DHHS Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers released a statement, saying the report highlighted the state’s progress.

“We appreciate that the expert reviewer has recognized and commended the department’s commitment to comply with the terms of the agreement,” Meyers said.

Officials at the Disability Rights Center-NH could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

Meyers said the state in the last half of 2016 “made additional advancements that are not reflected in the report toward implementation of the agreement to provide critical services to adults with severe mental illness.”

The department will issue a formal response after a comprehensive review of the findings.

The report said the state has made “potential progress” toward placing individuals with complex medical conditions from Glencliff Home, which treats the developmentally disabled and/or mentally ill population, into integrated community settings.

The state was required to reach a target capacity of 450 supported housing units funded through the Bridge Subsidy Program by June 30. As of Sept. 30, DHHS reported having 451 people in such housing units and 28 people approved for a subsidy but not yet leased.

The report also said there wasn’t enough assertive community treatment team staff members to handle those with mental illness issues.

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