Executive Council approves contract for new treatment center for teens

  • John H. Sununu Youth Services Center off of River Road in Manchester. Geoff Forester

Monitor staff
Published: 10/3/2018 5:39:43 PM

New Hampshire’s first residential treatment facility for teenagers with substance use disorder took a step closer to creation Wednesday, after the Executive Council approved a key contract with Granite Pathways to manage the program.

In a unanimous vote, councilors signed off on a plan to let the Manchester organization rent space in the Sununu Youth Services Center and set up a 36-bed facility for treatment and recovery. The contract, which extends through 2022, creates a facility available for those aged 12 to 18 that are struggling with addiction.

The Executive Council’s approval represents the next step in a gradual transformation of the Sununu Center, which has served primarily as a detention center for teens since its establishment in 2006. In 2017, amid concerns of bloated costs and underutilized services, legislators pushed to pare back the center.

House Bill 517, passed that year, mandated a reduction in population to 35, directing the state to find additional beds in community group homes. The bill also changed youth sentencing guidelines to reduce the number of people who would be directed to it.

But key to the bill was a change in mission away from punishment and toward treatment. The bill mandated the creation of the residential treatment facility, and stipulated that a non-state organization must run it.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services’s description of the contract approved Wednesday, the new facility will help adolescents and their families access care – whether within or beyond the Sununu Center – and help address mental health and behavioral challenges “that may inhibit their successful achievement of recovery.

The treatment will accept payments from Medicaid, private insurance and other third-party payors, the description added.

The services are available for the existing population at the center – who are often sent to the center by order of a judge – but those adolescents will need to undergo screenings first, Meyers told the council.

A representative for Granite Pathways was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

In a statement Wednesday, Gov. Chris Sununu hailed the vote, calling it a “vital project for our state’s children.”

“As Governor, I made a commitment to the people of New Hampshire that I would put the health and well-being of New Hampshire’s children first,” he said. “That is why last year in my budget I included the requisite funds to build an inpatient youth treatment center, the only one of its kind in New Hampshire, to ensure that New Hampshire’s children can receive the specialized care they need.”

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