Hampstead Hospital best site to replace Sununu Youth Services Center

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 04-28-2023 5:06 PM

After evaluating potential locations, a state-commissioned firm has recommended Hampstead Hospital and Residential Treatment Facility as the best site for replacing the Sununu Youth Services Center.

The new facility will serve as a secure and therapeutic youth development center to cater to the needs of juveniles with behavioral problems.

The center would have a capacity of 18 beds with an operational design to support 12 beds, along with indoor and outdoor recreation spaces and support services. The facility will be equipped to handle the needs of a challenging demographic that requires specialized care in a secure environment.

This follows the signing of legislation by Gov. Chris Sununu, which was supported by mental health professionals and child advocates, that provides $21.6 million in funding for the building and design of a trauma-informed care facility for children entering the juvenile justice system as a result of behavioral health issues.

“New Hampshire is moving quickly to build a new youth development center that is designed for the future of juvenile justice to provide the best outcome for our kids,” Sununu said in a statement. “Creating operational efficiencies is key to meeting that goal, which is just what locating the center in Hampstead would do.”

Children facing mental health challenges may find themselves in the juvenile justice system and at risk of breaking the law due to their difficulty in expressing their emotions or understanding their feelings.

Susan Stearns, the executive director of the New Hampshire chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said the lack of access to community support may also lead to juveniles committing offenses.

“One of the things you want is to not have it be very institutionalized,” Stearns said of her hope for future center.“You want to make sure that it is a secure facility, that they are treated with dignity and that their families are treated with dignity.”

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SMRT Architects and Engineers, a company with experience in building juvenile justice facilities in other states, was tasked with assessing three prospective locations owned by the state to replace the youth center that is funded through June. The sites evaluated included the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester, Londergan Hall in Concord, and Hampstead Hospital and Residential Treatment Facility in Hampstead.

The decision to opt for Hampstead Hospital as the favored site for the youth center was based on its potential to meet the facility’s demands and its close proximity to essential services like fire stations, police departments, hospitals, and courthouses.

The sites were assessed based on size, shared services, access, utilities, adjacent uses, environment, external support, and proximity to population centers. Among the sites, the Hampstead Hospital scored a 5 on all the criteria, except for proximity to external support services, population centers, and utilities, where it scored 3.

According to the report, the existing youth service center in Manchester was the second most preferred location.

With legislation in place to transform the juvenile justice system, Stearns said that in recent years the state has undertaken measures to divert or deflect children from entering the system whenever possible but there is still lot of work left to do.

“Most of those children are going to become part of our community,” said Stearns. “We need to make sure that they receive evidence-based, trauma informed care in an appropriate setting, so that they are receive the treatment they need are able to return to live in their communities.

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