Dozens of Manchester residents Thursday night took part in a discussion on how the state can make better use of the Sununu Youth Services Center. Currently only one third of the facility’s 144 beds are being used.
During Thursday’s public meeting, staff from the Department of Health and Human Services outlined three possible options for the Sununu Center. One: privatize services. Two: close down the facility altogether. Or Three– use the space to provide substance abuse and mental health treatment for youth not court-ordered to be there.
The Sununu Center is the state’s only detention center, which houses 12- to 17-year-olds.
Some in the crowd were concerned this last option would lead to lower property values or increased traffic -- or that it might even pose a security threat for the neighborhood, which was expressed by Mayor Ted Gatsas.
“I think it is very important that the community and the neighborhood is put at ease, that nothing is going to go here unless it’s secure,” Gatsas said, adding that when the facility was being built there were incidents of teens escaping.
But the majority of those who attended, including Representative Joe LaChance of Manchester, favored opening the Center’s doors to more patients. “We have a drug problem in this city, we have an emergent situation that needs to be dealt with, we don’t have any beds right now, but we do have beds here,” LaChance told the committee chaired by Sen. David Boutin.
The federal government is expected to evaluate the facility next month to decide if it’s equipped to offer these services beyond court-ordered youth.