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Dave Solomon's State House Dome: DHHS chief says progress is made on mental health

By DAVE SOLOMON
August 20. 2017 12:18AM
Concord Hospital CEO Bob Steigmeyer poses outside of the hospital's emergency room July 22, 2017. The hospital is instituting new policies to help staff and patients with mental illness. (David Lane/New Hampshire Union Leader)

THE FIRST step in creating more mental health beds to ease the shortage across the state was the easy part. The Legislature approved a $20 million investment and the Department of Health and Human Services issued a request for proposals from health care providers.

Now comes the hard part - getting those health care providers to respond.

The request for proposals was issued by June 30 and the initial deadline came and went without adequate responses. "The date for responses was extended to indicate it will remain open until filled," says DHHS Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers. "This will allow potential providers additional time to put together proposals. We believe that there is interest but that additional time is needed."

The effort to open more in-patient mental health beds, or "designated receiving facility" beds as they are known in medical jargon, is just one part of a multi-pronged attack on the lack of mental health resources authorized in the state budget and House Bill 400.

Here's where the other initiatives stand, according to Meyers:

Conducting a study of inpatient bed capacity: The request for proposals was released by June 30 and four applications have been received. A DHHS team is now reviewing the responses and targeting the Sept. 13 or Sept. 27 Executive Council meeting to submit a contract.

Creating a new mental health Mobile Crisis Team: The RFP was released by June 30, but the response was inadequate. The deadline for applications has been extended.

"We are evaluating some potential changes to the RFP that would be issued as an addendum that may add flexibility to the services to respond to the needs of presently un-served areas of the state," said Meyers.

New transitional community housing units: The request for proposals was released on June 30 and three applications have been received. The proposals are under review and DHHS is targeting the Executive Council meeting of Sept. 27 for a contract.

New data management system to track available beds: A request for information has been published and responses were due back by Aug. 15. A team is working on request for proposals that will be based on the information received, which is expected to be published on or about Sept. 1.

"We are working closely with the Department of Information Technology on this effort," said Meyers.

New 10-year plan for mental health services: "We are working with the National Association of State Mental Health Directors for technical and consulting assistance for the convening of a broad stakeholder group to help develop the new 10-year plan," said Meyers.

Improved due process rights for patients held on involuntary admission: "We convened the stakeholders named in the legislation for consultation," said Meyers. "We also have worked with the court system and hospitals to develop a mechanism by which we can ensure that hearings are held within 72 hours."

A report will be issued by Sept. 1 identifying how such a system would be implemented. State officials agreed in the last legislative session to have something in place by November.

Removing juvenile patients from New Hampshire Hospital: The idea here is to find a new home for 24 children now housed at the state's psychiatric hospital, which would open 48 new adult beds, since adults can share a room, while children can't.

The state is looking at several options, including the retrofitting of the Philbrook Building on New Hampshire Hospital grounds to accommodate children, as it once did. A report to the Legislature is required by Nov. 1.

"We are looking at other children's facilities for design and programming options, and are obtaining preliminary cost projections," said Meyers.

Overall, he is optimistic about the process so far, even though the third and biggest challenge still lies ahead - staffing the new facilities if and when they are built.

"We feel we have made good progress in implementing these initiatives and we are pleased with the response thus far," he said.


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