Crisis unit at New Hampshire Hospital delayed as a result of budget cuts

Last modified: 3/20/2015 12:11:01 AM
In an attempt to balance the next budget, the division of the New Hampshire House Finance Committee that oversees health and human services spending voted to delay the opening of a 10-bed crisis unit at New Hampshire Hospital.

As explained by hospital officials last year, the unit was meant to act as a “swing space” where patients who would otherwise be left to wait in emergency rooms around the state could be seen more quickly for treatment during a mental health crisis.

Construction on the crisis unit already started using money already appropriated for the current budget cycle, Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Commissioner Marilee Nihan told the committee, and it was originally slated to open July 1. The committee voted earlier in the week to delay the opening by six months, she noted.

If yesterday’s vote – 5-4 along party lines, with Republicans supporting the delay and Democrats opposing it – carries through, the unit would not open until July 2016. Proposed by House Finance Committee Chairman Rep. Neal Kurk and finance division Chairman Rep. Richard Barry, this move would save an estimated $1.9 million in operational costs.

Some other representatives worried this delay would result in other consequences. Rep. Mary Jane Wallner asked the department to elaborate on how many people might be affected by this delay and where they would have to go instead.

As of yesterday, Nihan said, about 40 people – most of them in other hospital emergency departments – were on the waiting list to get into New Hampshire Hospital.

“So perhaps I could clarify: The existing budget that we have is set up with the understanding that we have a wait list for these services and that’s no change from what we’re doing today? Correct?” Barry then asked. “This will not exacerbate what’s happening today?”

The action, Nihan responded, “will delay the resolution of the problem by another six months.”

With that, the committee took its vote.




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