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Push continues to get help, better access for mentally ill in NH

PLYMOUTH — Although New Hampshire Hospital has added 12 new beds, on any given day 25 to 30 people continue to wait in local emergency rooms without treatment, the Executive Council was told Wednesday.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas said 12 new beds were opened in June but those beds are filled so there is a waiting list of people with mental illness who need to be admitted.

He noted the new capital budget includes money to reconfigure a section of New Hampshire hospital into a new 10-bed crisis center for short term emergency admissions.

People in crisis can be brought in and stabilized Toumpas said, "but it is not long-term. The long-term solution is to keep people in their communities and treat them there."

The new biennial budget includes about $24 million to start rebuilding the state's mental health system, Toumpas said, but that will take time.

He said local crisis teams will be established and the state is working with Franklin hospital to establish a designated 10-bed psychiatric unit to treat those from the North County similar to the designated center at Elliot Hospital in Manchester.

Last month, two workers at the Elliot were allegedly attacked by an acutely mentally ill patient on his third day in the emergency room.

The city recently held a meeting with state and local officials to discuss what could be done to alleviate the situation.

At the Executive Council meeting Wednesday, District 1 Executive Councilor Raymond Burton, R-Bath, said police chiefs from his district say their top priority is getting mentally ill into the New Hampshire Hospital for treatment.

Earlier this year, HHS officials reopened a wing that had been closed in New Hampshire Hospital due to budgetary constraints after law enforcement, health care providers and advocates complained that people were languishing in hospital emergency rooms for days who were suicidal, depressed or manic.

The state was sued by the federal government and others over its mental health system. That suit is pending in federal court.

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