Senate Reaffirms Commitment to Address State Mental Health Crisis

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Nancy West photo

Entrance to the Secure Psychiatric Unit at the men's prison in Concord. Above left shows four units used for group therapy and at right is a photo of a cell in the unit.

CONCORD — On Thursday, the New Hampshire Senate passed HB 726-FN as amended, which would establish a secure forensic psychiatric hospital advisory council and make an appropriation for a new forensic hospital.

Upon passage, the bill was tabled for consideration during the Senate budget process. Following the vote, Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, and Sen. Dr. Tom Sherman, D-Rye,  released the following statements:

“The growing demand for mental health services has exceeded our state’s capacity to provide them. Granite Staters, and their families, deserve better. As the Senate moves forward with the budget process, all options are on the table to ensure everyone has access to the mental health services they need, when they need them, in an appropriate setting,” said Senate President Donna Soucy. “I look forward to working with advocates, stakeholders, and legislators on both sides of the aisle to build a better mental health system.”

Sherman added: “There is no silver bullet to address the mental health crisis in our state – New Hampshire must continue our multi-pronged approach, which includes bolstering community mental health services, increasing reimbursement rates, ending the emergency room boarding crisis, and a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to ending the effective incarceration of mental health patients.

“While we analyze longer-term solutions, like the future of the forensic psychiatric hospital, New Hampshire must take swift action to address the emergency room boarding crisis now. On any given day in New Hampshire, 35 to 40 adults and children are in emergency rooms waiting for these mental health services. SB 11 uses surplus funds to increase compensation in the mental health field, including for designated receiving facility beds and voluntary admissions as well as new DRF beds. The legislation also appropriates funding for either another mobile crisis team or behavioral health crisis treatment center to deal with people in crisis and prevent the need for involuntary commitment. The Senate passed SB 11 unanimously, it was endorsed unanimously by a House committee this week, and I hope my colleagues will soon send the bill with a strong, positive recommendation to the governor for his signature.”

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