Laura Greenberg knows firsthand how important housing supports can be for someone experiencing a mental health crisis. The Nashua resident said being involved in the Bridge Program at Harbor Homes helped her to avert homelessness during her own crisis several years ago. Today, she's “back on track” and working as a licensed nurse assistant.
“Because of these resources, I’m able to give back to the community. I’m able to work,” Greenberg said Tuesday. "I think the real long-term issue is, how do you off-board from a program so that the next person in crisis can actually come on board and get the help that I had gotten two years ago?"
She’s hopeful the opening of a new 14-bed transitional housing unit at Harbor Homes will help to address that question. A similar six-bed unit is also slated to open at NFI North in Bradford.
Together, the 20 beds are part of a broader set of mental health reforms prescribed by the Legislature last year. They’re meant to ease severe backlogs at both the state psychiatric hospital and ERs where patients are awaiting treatment.
The goal is to ease the transition back into everyday life after someone receives inpatient treatment at an institution like the state hospital. Ideally, that will help to free up more space at New Hampshire Hospital, which would in turn mean shorter wait times for the patients who are stuck in hospital emergency rooms seeking treatment.
“They’re going to have access to supported employment, they’ll have people come in and help them learn how to read a lease, how to do tenant rights, things like that,” said Kathryn Byrne, the program manager for the new transitional housing unit at Harbor Homes. “So that when they’re moving on and transitioning into an apartment, they have the knowledge and the skills to be able to support themselves going forward and be independent.”
. Chris Sununu and Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeff Meyers joined a team at Harbor Homes in Nashua Tuesday to celebrate the opening of the new unit. The governor said he’d like to see another 20 transitional housing beds open in 2018 – and hopes lawmakers see the value in funding this kind of service.
“When you invest in programs like this, there’s a huge savings on the other side at New Hampshire Hospital,” Sununu said. “It will move those folks out of New Hampshire Hospital, where it’s right now very expensive to keep them there – that’s a better quality of service for the individual at a lower cost for the state.”