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Mental health & DCYF: Overdue reforms signed into law

June 18. 2017 10:13PM

Now comes the hard part.

Last week, Gov. Chris Sununu checked off two important items on the agenda he presented to the Legislature in his February budget address.

Sununu signed House Bill 400 into law, providing a framework to increase beds available to mental health patients and to restructure the scandal-plagued Divsion of Children, Youth, and Families.

New Hampshire has struggled with treating the mentally ill for decades, and reached a settlement with the Disability Rights Center in 2013. The new law directs the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a 10-year plan for the state’s mental health system, and to ensure patients awaiting scarce mental health beds have their rights protected.

The overdue restructuring of DCYF should bring accountability to a state agency that has swept its problems under the carpet for years. It would give case workers greater authority to monitor at-risk children.

But both issues require diligence from the executive branch, and oversight from the legislative.

Funding for the new mental health beds is part of the budget up for debate this week. The budget also anticipates using excess capacity at the Sununu Youth Services Center to treat minors for drug addiction. That could free up space at New Hampshire Hospital for patients in need of mental health care.

HB 400 is a positive step toward providing care and protection for those most in need of our help.

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