Council Approves Funds To Offer State Employment To Hampstead Hospital Workers

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Paula Tracy photo

Singers from Exeter High School performed for the Governor and Executive Council meeting Wednesday.


CONCORD – Mental health nurses, social workers and administrative staff at the new state Hampstead Hospital for youth can become state employees after the Executive Council created a new expenditure class of more than $17 million to bring them into the fold on Wednesday.

The council also heard from the Agriculture Commissioner that about half of the $8 million for crop loss has been allocated and that he feels the rest of the money can be used to help agriculture overall, not specific farmers, as the concern he had for farms closing from the two, 2023 weather events was not as bad as he feared.

And the council also refused to take off the table a sole-source request by the Commissioner of Education to approve a contract with the controversial Kahn Academy for $2.3 million with Frank Edelblut saying time is running out of the school year to get that curriculum in front of students.

The council refused to remove the matter from the table and Edelblut said the state was missing out on an opportunity.


The workers at Hampstead Hospital have either been employees or gig workers with Wellpath the current contractor, which assumed the job of running the facility when the state bought the private hospital in 2022. 

Wellpath’s contract expires on June 30.

Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital was chosen by competitive bid to serve the clinical needs of the youths and young adults in a recently-signed contract. The health care giant in the Upper Valley will be bringing its doctors to care for the mental health needs of the youths, but the staff including pharmacists, technicians, programming staff, counselors, registered nurses and supervisors, social workers and administrative support staff are not part of the hospital contract.

According to Lori Weaver, commissioner of the state Department of Health and Human Services, the department anticipates approximately 890 children and young adults will be served at the hospital in the State Fiscal 2025 budget.

Executive Councilor Joe Kenney of Wakefield, a Republican, asked if the state gets to keep everyone.

“It is our intention to keep all of them except the prescribing practitioners,” said Weaver, who will be providing the clinical support. “We are asking all of them to stay.”

Executive Councilor Janet Stevens, R-Rye, asked where the state stands on trying to meet census goals as there is currently not enough staff to care for the beds.

“Just because we have the capacity for 65 (patients) does not mean we have the need,” Weaver said.

In past meetings she has noted that there have only been one or two children waiting to be admitted and waiting in hospital emergency rooms. Having enough staff has been a challenge, however and remains a limiting factor.

The state had far more children in such a crisis at an emergency room prior to the opening at Hampstead which used to serve both adults and children. Now it is only children. The 100-acre campus is likely to also be the new home for those being cared for at Manchester’s Sununu Youth Services Center, formerly the Youth Development Center, which is set to close.


David King, who has served as administrative judge to state’s Circuit Court, is retiring after more than 30 years of state service. He was honored in a proclamation offered by Gov. Sununu.

Councilor Stevens also noted his service during COVID-19 when he kept the courts open and thanked him for his service particularly during those years.


The council approved $5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to address operating losses at community mental health centers across the state. The funds have been approved by the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee and needed the final OK from the council.

Katja Fox, director of the division of behavioral services within DHHS, said there have been some losses but the state is taking steps to mitigate those losses with this measure.

She said Medicaid payments didn’t get to centers until much later. There is the issue of uncompensated care, she said, which is exacerbating the problem.

“We are asking for this additional funding for the centers and that the funding may be directly sent to the vendors,” she said. 


About 40 farms that lost crops, particularly apples and peaches last year during freeze and flooding events, have been awarded funds to cover a portion of their losses and the left over money, which is about half of what was given to the Agriculture Department, is left over.

Farmers have expressed concern about the way the fund was set up by the department. 

Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, a Democrat from Concord who is running for governor, said she was concerned that the program has distributed well short of the $8 million allocated for the program under the American Rescue Plan Act.

Commissioner of Agriculture Markets and Food Shawn Jasper said his department is still finishing up with the final batch of farms and said there is about half the money still left in the till.

While he previously suggested there might be another round where the percent loss threshold dropped, allowing for more farms to get money, he said there is no way to expand that now and he is looking at ways to help “agriculture in general.”

He suggested the money might be distributed to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and various conservation districts and said he is trying to see if that would be allowed under the ARPA rules.

“Surprisingly to me, the losses were not as high as we anticipated,” he said. 

Some apple growers lost their entire year’s crop.

Jasper said for him “it was not just about the loss of commodity but making sure farms did not go under,” noting that “in general, that is really good news.”

Warmington asked if he was seeking input from farmers on how to spend the rest. 

He said at this point, “no” but said he would likely reach out to the NH Farm Bureau Federation.

He said his idea is to work with the agricultural extension on measures with an eye toward climate change.

While well intended, she said the program received a lot of criticism from unhappy farmers about the program and suggested he reach out to them.

“I certainly agree,” he said but noted a recent media report on the subject interviewed farmers who did get money and that some were very happy. 

“We all know how reporting goes, sometimes,” Jasper said.

After the meeting Warmington said she is not sure how farmers she has spoken with on the issue feel about the program, but she said it is important for him to be talking directly with them.

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