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To Address NH’s Mental Health Problems, We Must Increase Funding To Mental Health Care

As we grieve with the families of Newtown, Connecticut, we should take a moment to reflect on the condition of New Hampshire’s mental health system.

“Mental health care in New Hampshire has become a game of musical chairs.  Budgets are tighter, meaning fewer treatment beds. And patient numbers keep rising, meaning more people left without treatment.  The wait for a bed at NH Hospital, the state’s only psychiatric hospital, is often days, and those waiting stay in windowless emergency rooms occasionally requiring security if the patients get agitated. It is not uncommon for a dozen people to wait at Concord Hospital on a weekend hoping a bed at NH Hospital will open.”  Read the full Business NH article here.

According to a 2011 Dartmouth College Policy Brief,

Over the past decade, the demand for mental health services in New Hampshire has greatly increased while the system has been affected by numerous budget cuts. This has led to reduced or closed programs, staff shortages, layoffs, and extended waiting lists. In addition to direct impacts on the mental health system, the budget cuts have also led to an increased usage in other areas such as correctional facilities, the judiciary system, and emergency rooms.

And that was written before the latest budget cycle – which, among other cuts, sharply reduced the CHINS (Children in Need of Services) program.

[mantra-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”right” width=”33%”]“A certain, probably substantial percentage of these kids — their behavior is going to get worse if they don’t get help,” Lightfoot said [/mantra-pullquote]

The nearly 1,000 children in a given year — 400 to 500 at any given time — who have traditionally been served through CHINS would be reduced to about 50.  “A certain, probably substantial percentage of these kids — their behavior is going to get worse if they don’t get help,” [Jack] Lightfoot said. “When they don’t get help for whatever issue, they become more likely to become a more serious criminal. I think we have to be very careful about that.”

Read the full Fosters article here.

One week ago, the state Department of Health and Human Services announced it would soon reopen a dozen beds at NH Hospital, and would seek additional mental health funding in the next budget cycle.  NH Hospital has closed three units with 60 beds since 2009. Read the full Union Leader story here.

 

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