A point made recently about New Hampshire’s approach to the opioid crisis ought to be underlined in the new fracas about a secure psychiatric unit. In more than 30 years, a Nashua official said at a forum, he has never seen such a collaborative, break-down-the-silos effort among various agencies and groups.
In Concord, however, more effort seems to be dedicated to building political silos than in working toward solutions. When that threatens to upend a plan to, finally, end the prison-like housing of the severely mentally ill, it is more than a shame. It may well lead to more expensive lawsuits against the state.
It was encouraging to see Gov. Chris Sununu include in his budget monies for a secure psychiatric unit that would be on state hospital grounds and away from the current state prison setting. This has been an issue for years. The state has, time and again, agreed to fix it but has failed to do so.
The new unit would not be an end to the problem, of course. It is a component in a renewed effort to get people treatment in less-restrictive and less-costly settings. But the new unit would end, or at least greatly lessen, the current dangerous situation in which severely ill patients, who are a danger to themselves or others, find themselves waiting for days in hospital emergency rooms and then shipped to the state prison. (Story, Page A1.)
From his reaction on Monday, Gov. Sununu was as stunned as others to learn that House Democrats have decided to scrap the $26 million plan for either a new building or a new wing on an existing state hospital structure. Having talked about the problem for years, the Democrats now want to “study” the problem. More study would put off a solution for at least three more years.
Gov. Sununu was right to call this “unconscionable.’’ When he comes down from the ceiling, he should take the high road and simply repeat his case for the reasons and need for the unit where the mentally ill, and their families, are not treated like hardened criminals.
We believe Granite Staters will appreciate the effort.