In Depth: Examining N.H.'s Mental Health System

May 18, 2018

The Exchange: In-Depth

On the first of our four-day series, we get an overview of mental health care in New Hampshire, including efforts to bolster the community support system, as required under a 2013 legal settlement.  We'll also find out how a new 10-year plan for mental health is shaping up, and how it differs from the last 10-year plan.  Among the issues yet to be solved: long emergency-room waits for people in crisis, an average of 37 people daily, according to the N.H. chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. 

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New Hampshire has been struggling for some time to fix a mental health system that was once considered a model of care, with a robust system of community support. 

In 2013,  the state settled a class action suit and agreed to spend millions on rebuilding its community support system after years of decline. Read a summary of the case for reform laid out by the Disability Rights Center of New Hampshire. 

The state has made some progress since 2013, establishing mobile crisis units, as well as Assertive Community Treatment teams that are designed to help people stay out of institutions and receive care and support in their homes and communities. 

But there are still gaps in care and areas for improvement, including, according to the Disability Rights Center, insuffient housing options.  You can find progress reports and other materials related to the agreement here.  

There are still long waits in hospital emergency rooms for patients awaiting care. And the state has been criticized for the practice of sending certain patients who have been involuntarily committed and who cannot be safely housed at the State Hospital to the Secure Psychiatric Unit at the state prison in Concord.   

State lawmakers recently boosted funding for mental health services, including $3.4 million for DHHS to establish a behavioral health crisis center at a key location in the state.