The state should invest about $100 million to pay for more than 150 additional treatment beds for those suffering from mental illness, Gov. Chris Sununu said.
Two weeks after the state Supreme Court ruled New Hampshire failed to give due process to those involuntarily kept in hospital emergency rooms, Sununu said the state was in compliance with that ruling.
The high court unanimously ruled the state failed to give these patients the right to contest their detention within three days of arrival.
The governor credited Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette with leading the effort to quickly answer the court’s decision.
Sununu said operators of the state’s acute-care hospitals have stepped forward and agreed to dedicate 30 of their existing hospital beds for mental health patients.
Late last month, Sununu urged hospital executives to come forward with proposals to open some treatment beds.
“We are leaving no stone unturned,” Sununu said.
New Hampshire used to have a robust network of community hospitals and health care centers with acute psychiatric beds located across the state. This contributed to the state’s number-one ranking in the nation for mental health services.
Until this latest announcement, New Hampshire had only seven places where adults or children could be involuntarily committed due to mental illness.
And nearly two-thirds of all those beds currently — 175 of 255 beds statewide — are in the state-run New Hampshire Hospital complex in Concord.
“This is a huge step, increasing the number of beds in designated receiving facilities,” Sununu said. “It’s a foundation to making this new plan work.”
Beds in all 10 counties
The plan also calls for locating six new transitional housing beds in each of the state’s 10 counties.
“(We’re) making sure there are community-driven opportunities so folks don’t just have to rely on a single hub out of Concord or Manchester,” Sununu said.
Shibinette is working with the operators of nursing homes and assisted living centers to identify another 40 beds that will treat geriatric patients with mental health problems, Sununu said.
“This is the most transformative action that the state has ever taken on mental health,” Sununu said.
The Legislature is debating one of Sununu’s proposals — $30 million to complete construction of a 24-bed forensic psychiatric hospital to be built on the grounds of the New Hampshire Hospital.
The version of the state budget trailer bill (HB 2) the Senate passed last week contains that money.
The existing state budget had earmarked $8.5 million in startup money for the same project.
The Senate spending plan also includes money to complete one of Sununu’s past initiatives to create mobile crisis teams.
Senate Democrats had proposed adding that money to the budget last week.
“We appreciate our colleagues on the other side of the aisle for their support of this amendment,” Senate Deputy Democratic Leader Cindy Rosenwald said in a statement.
The Sununu administration has gotten some pushback on a proposal it made in late May as another Senate budget amendment.
Shibinette had proposed creating for some a period of “medical protective custody” for their cases to be reviewed, which could last up to seven days.
Gilles Bissonnette, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, which supported the suit against the state, said the language was unacceptable as written.
“We appreciate DHHS’s effort to ensure that only those who are truly a danger to themselves or others as a result of a mental health condition be subjected to the involuntary emergency admission process,” Bissonnette said in a statement.
“We believe that the answer to this crisis should be more due process, not the possibility of additional detention without a hearing.”’
A Senate committee will take testimony at a hearing Tuesday on this latest proposal Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, is offering as an amendment to another bill (HB 565).