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In wake of ER attack, mayor frustrated state mental hospital lacks beds for the most dangerous

August 08. 2013 8:54PM

MANCHESTER — Problems with the mental health system in Manchester boil down to one thing — a lack of available beds at the New Hampshire Hospital, said top leaders in the city health and law enforcement fields on Thursday.

Mayor Ted Gatsas, Police Chief David Mara and leaders of city hospitals and clinics voiced their frustration Thursday at the bottleneck created at the 158-bed psychiatric hospital. When the state-run hospital is full and can't accept patients, mentally ill people suffering dangerous episodes languish for days in hospital emergency rooms.

"The one place where we have to concentrate, is New Hampshire Hospital," Gatsas said during the roundtable discussion. The Manchester officials met at Elliot Hospital, nearly a month after two workers were attacked by Ansel Kinglocke, an acutely mentally ill patient on his third day in the emergency room.

City leaders shouldn't expect to see any more beds open at the Concord facility.

In June, 12 new beds opened at the hospital, said Robert MacLeod, chief-executive of the facility. The state plans to spend $24.7 million over the next two years, but that money will go toward improving community-based programs, not more beds at the New Hampshire Hospital, MacLeod said.

"As you beef up the services in other parts of the state and in the community (system), it does relieve the pressure we have," he said.

But the budget year just started in July, and MacLeod said he's not sure when the impacts of the new programs will be felt. For example, Franklin Regional Hospital hopes to open a 10-bed psychiatric unit, but not until October.

"It didn't take us one day to get into this situation. It's going to take time to put the pieces back together again," MacLeod said.

He said Manchester has a strong community-based care system for the mentally ill.

Gatsas said he's asked the roundtable members for 10 actions the city can take to make the community safer. Meanwhile, he's asked state officials to prioritize admissions to the New Hampshire Hospital based on the danger of the patients.

Some of the strongest language came from Elliot President and Chief Executive Doug Dean, who said the attack was the worst he's seen on hospital workers in his decades in health care. At one point he warned about a "small percentage of evil" emerging in the community.

Licensed nursing assistant Donald Wyman, 52, spent weeks in critical condition at Massachusetts General Hospital after the July 8 attack. Another LNA, Melissa Clermont, suffered a broken cheekbone.

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