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January 28. 2014 2:33PM

Hassan: Medicaid expansion would help overburdened mental health system

Gov. Maggie Hassan said the expansion of Medicaid would help address problems with the mental health system that led to violent assaults at the Elliot Hospital emergency room last year.

Hassan made her remarks upon the release of a study panel’s review of the separate assaults, which involved mentally ill people who were undergoing a crisis and awaiting admission to the New Hampshire State Hospital.

The Sentinel Event Review was not an investigation to determine criminal or civil liability in the assaults. Rather, Hassan called for the review in order to evaluate the ongoing strains in the system caused by mental health patients awaiting care in hospital emergency rooms.

Many of the recommendations — including beefed up community-based mental health services and a second hospital to handle psychiatric patients — are already part of a strategy the state has promised as part of a resolution of a federal suit that challenged the state’s mental health system.

Beyond those recommendations, the review board called for additional housing for mentally ill, enhanced training of hospital workers, better treatment for mentally ill people who use drugs or alcohol, and health insurance that covers mental health services.

In her statement, Hassan said Medicaid expansion would provide coverage for many who are uninsured.

“This report underscores the significant challenges faced by those with mental illness in New Hampshire as well as health care providers, and we must continue working together to strengthen community-based mental health services that will help prevent individuals from reaching the point of crisis,” Hassan said.

The review was led by former Supreme Court Justice Joseph Nadeau, who was joined by Dr. Alexander P. de Nesnera from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, and Senior Assistant Attorney General Michael Brown.


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