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Wed January 22, 2014
DHHS Commissioner Toumpas
You would think that the commissioner of the state’s largest agency has one of the biggest to-do lists of the year, and for Health and Human Services Commissioner Nick Toumpas, you’re probably right. A new year brings new challenges for Toumpas: with Medicaid, there’s the implementation of its managed care program, as well as the continuing debate over its expansion. With medical marijuana in place, it's up to Toumpas to implement the program, while a new report shows recreational use of pot among teens has gone up. There’s also the settlement that says the Granite State is not doing enough for people with mental illness along with a poor grade for the state’s quality of psychiatric services. You can bet that Nick Toumpas will have a full plate in 2014.
- Nick Toumpas – Commissioner for New Hampshire's Health and Human Services Department
Mental health: New Hampshire was recently graded a D+ for its emergency care environment, including psychiatric care. DHHS is already addressing the issue: in the current budget, there was $24 million put into the current plan. Additionally, the recent mental health settlement requires a $30 million more over the next three years. This money is meant to bolster community care providers in order to decrease unnecessary institutionalizations.
Managed care: Going into high gear for implementation in 2014. There is concern that care management, because it will put management of benefits into the hands of private firms, will use profit motive as a reason to ratchet down on rates, at the expense of quality of care. The commissioner assures that there is plenty of oversight and stipulations to prevent that from happening.
Medicaid expansion: While many across the House, Senate, and Governor’s office agree that as many as 50,000 more Granite Staters need health coverage, the question remains how to do it. The Affordable Care Act had envisioned just expanding Medicaid to those people, but New Hampshire’s legislature is not likely to pass that. It’s still looking for right combination of keeping people on employer-sponsored coverage and providing premium assistance to make it work.
Medical marijuana: DHHS has set up an advisory commission to oversee its implementation. Currently, they are working on the development of rules around how cards are issued to clients and caregivers, and for licensing and certification of alternative treatment centers.
Teenage marijuana use report: New Hampshire has among the highest rates in the country. The commissioner acknowledges that high teen use in N.H. may reflect the national conversation about legalization of both medical and recreational use across the country.
PTSD and TBI commission: The recently released report is an extension of the commitment DHHS made several years ago to focus on needs of New Hampshire’s veteran community. One outcome has been establishing a new position in the department which creates linkages between resources and the veteran community.