The N.H. Department of Health and Human Services is making changes to its licensing requirements for in-patient drug and alcohol treatment centers in order to address a statewide shortage of beds.
The revision came after Gov. Maggie Hassan and head of the department, Nick Toumpas, requested that the requirements be reviewed in August.Under the change, treatment providers will now be able to house two adults in rooms that are 120 square feet rather than the 160 square footage in the current rules. Currently 21 states have the 120-foot standard or lower.
The new rules will affect several treatment facilities that do not meet the state’s current standards.
But Mary Castelli, who conducted the review for the department, said room size is just one barrier for those providers.
Meeting stringent fire- and life-safety code regulations, as well as the cost of meeting those requirements are the largest hardship for unlicensed facilities, she said.
“It might be a sprinkler system, an integrated smoke alarm system and that can be costly endeavors,” Castelli said.
For Serenity Place in Manchester, meeting fire and safety codes in a building that's more than a century old has been its biggest challenge, said Development Director Stephanie Bergeron.
“It’s difficult often with an older building where we have a lot of programs happening in one facility to fit those stringent requirements. We want to, we kind of have to get creative,” Bergeron said, adding that the licenses board has been very patient with the center as administrators work to get up to code.
The facility plans to apply for a license later this week with a goal of providing 40 new beds.
Currently, Headrest in Lebanon and Farnum Center North in Franklin have pending licenses. Those facilities have plans to add a total of 50 beds. Southeastern N.H. Services also plans to apply for a license to add 26 new beds in Dover. Since January of 2014, 558 people have died from a drug overdose in New Hampshire and the state has been under pressure to increase access to treatment.