sununu youth center

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

The House Finance Committee on Monday included in its budget blueprint a proposal to address underutilization at the state’s only juvenile detention center.

The Sununu Youth Center in Manchester has 144 beds, only half of which are being used on a daily basis.

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State health officials and a legislative working group are at odds over how to best transform part of the state's underused juvenile detention center in an effort to meet a $5 million budget cut.

The health department wants to convert half the Sununu Youth Services Center into a psychiatric residential treatment facility. But a legislative working group proposes selling most of the campus to a non-profit that will run a youth substance abuse treatment center. Any changes require legislative approval.

The Sununu Youth Center, New Hampshire's only juvenile detention facility, is one step closer to finding a new function. What that will look like, however, remains unclear.

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.

DHHS

At a meeting Monday morning at the Sununu Youth Center in Manchester, a bipartisan group of N.H. lawmakers discussed several options of how the facility can save money due to its low enrollment. The facility currently houses 44 people but it can hold 144.

Senate and House members applauded the juvenile detention center for operating at a third of its capacity. but said it needs to better utilize its funding in order to serve more youth.

The group did; however, rule out closing the facility.