Gov. Sununu expands access to mental health services after State Supreme Court ruling
May 13, 2021
Some patients held for days, sometimes longer.
by Monica Hernandez
MANCHESTER, N.H. —
Dozens of adults and children in New Hampshire in need of emergency psychiatric care have been forced to wait in emergency rooms for days or more due to lack of beds. Gov. Chris Sununu said he wants to change that based on a State Supreme Court decision.
On Thursday, Sununu directed the Department of Health and Human Services to increase access to mental health services. He promised to open more beds at New Hampshire Hospital in the coming days.
“It is an opportunity to finally break down barriers we have been trying to break down for years,” Sununu said.
The decision came after a State Supreme Court Ruling, in a landmark case in which a woman was held at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center for 17 days after being involuntarily admitted for mental health concerns, before being transferred to New Hampshire Hospital.
“Boarding was wrong, ethically, legally, medically, economically and morally,” said Ken Norton, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI.
Officials from NAMI said as of Wednesday, 36 adults and more than 20 children were also waiting in the ER on beds to open for emergency mental health services.
“There have been several attempts over the last couple years to expand bed capacity and community-based services capacity-based services capacity in the state, but have not been successful,” Norton said.
The governor said the state had made strides over the years, with no wait for inpatient psychiatric beds before the pandemic. But, then came a workforce shortage and an increase in stress and mental health issues due to COVID-19.
The governor’s executive order also called for DHHS to create emergency rules to increase access to mental health services and review all providers across the state to make sure they are capable of meeting the community’s needs.