CONCORD — Gov. Chris Sununu and Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette announced Monday that there were no adults in hospital emergency departments waiting for inpatient psychiatric treatment — for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“We are moving full speed ahead and are breaking down barriers in order to serve our most vulnerable,” Sununu said. “While there is much more work to be done, our immediate actions have started to show promising results — and we are not letting up.”
On May 13, Sununu issued an executive order that allows Health and Human Services to take immediate steps to ensure that New Hampshire residents experiencing a mental health crisis receive timely and appropriate medical care.
The order came the same week the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that a person certified for involuntary commitment to a designated receiving facility was denied her statutory right to due process within three days as required by state law. It also followed months of growing numbers of people being held in hospital emergency rooms for long periods of time waiting for a bed in a psychiatric facility.
According to a press release from the governor's office, the Department of Health and Human Services has worked to implement short-term solutions to the emergency department wait list, including offering long-term care facilities a $45,000 per bed incentive to accept geropsychiatric patients from New Hampshire Hospital or the Glencliff Home, creating an additional 25 beds at New Hampshire Hospital.
Shibinette thanked long-term care facilities that partnered with the department to increase bed capacity, as well as the staff and leadership at New Hampshire Hospital.
“We continue to address barriers to mental health care, and are working with our partners to create new and innovative practices and programs to serve our residents long term,” she said.
New Hampshire Hospital has managed the wait list in partnership with long-term care facilities that have accepted patients at New Hampshire Hospital whose psychiatric conditions have stabilized but continue to require supportive residential care.
New Hampshire’s initial reforms rely on centralized in-patient care to ensure compliance with the state Supreme Court’s ruling.
The long-term plan will require increased community-based services throughout the state.
The department will be presenting contracts within the next month to the Executive Council for mobile crisis response for all populations, contracting with children’s residential providers to provide services across the continuum of care.
In addition to these efforts, the department continues its work to implement the 10-Year Mental Health Plan to address barriers to mental health care.