Steve Ahnen: NH mental patients endure unacceptably long waits for care
The impact is that adults and children are confined in hospital emergency departments that are not designed or staffed for psychiatric care as they await transfer to New Hampshire Hospital. These waiting times can last for days or weeks. Lengthy delays for care at the time of a mental health crisis — often in a confined and isolated setting — can be frightening, stressful and can cause the individual’s underlying condition to worsen. It is frustrating and stressful for family members and health care professionals; also, the need to justify this type of confinement is creating issues of justice and proper protection of individual rights.
All of the factors that are contributing to this rapid increase in the admitting queue are not yet clear. From both the community mental health centers’ and the local hospitals’ vantage points, we are able to identify some contributing factors, but we believe that a more comprehensive and rapid review of this public health situation needs to be undertaken.
• Analyze its cause and devise short-term and medium-term bridging strategies to alleviate the New Hampshire Hospital backups;
• Provide more immediate care for those in a mental health crisis.
The time to act is now, before yet another tragic event occurs.
Steve Ahnen is president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association. Jay Couture is president of the New Hampshire Community Behavioral Health Association.
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