A federal judge has kept alive a lawsuit that challenges the practice of boarding dangerously mentally ill people in hospital emergency rooms, at times jesting about the state’s reason to dismiss the lawsuit.
The decision was issued by U.S. District Court Judge Joseph DeClerico on Thursday, four weeks after he held a hearing on legal issues involved in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was brought by three John Doe/Jane Roe defendants and the mother of a man who spent 27 days in an emergency room. The state had wanted the lawsuit dismissed, which DeClerico refused to do.
In a 32-page order, DeClerico noted that lawyers representing the state Department of Health and Human Services had complained that the legal complaint was too long, had too many footnotes and long paragraphs and many exhibits and hyperlinks to news articles.
“In short, the Commissioner (of Health and Human Services) seeks dismissal of the complaint not because it is difficult to comprehend but instead because it provides too much information and will take too long to answer,” he wrote.
DeClerico found that New Hampshire law requires that a judge hold a hearing three days after a doctor completes a petition for involuntary emergency admission to the state psychiatric hospital.
He said the Department of Health and Human Services has failed to provide such hearings when patients wait for admission in emergency rooms.
The lawsuit was filed two years ago, when patients would wait sometimes for weeks to be admitted to a proper facility.
Since then, several hospitals have opened psychiatric wards, greatly opening up and in some cases eliminating the bottleneck.