State to invest $100 million in mental health

  • A security officer stands by while an LNA works with mental health patients in a make-shift care area in a Concord Hospital Emergency Room hallway in 2018. The hospital is one of many in New Hampshire that has experienced a backlog of patients waiting to be admitted to New Hampshire State Hospital. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 6/3/2021 5:09:22 PM

The state will invest about $100 million in mental health infrastructure, Gov. Chris Sununu announced at a press conference Thursday.

These investments come after the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that psychiatric patients being held involuntarily in emergency rooms must be given a chance to contest their detention within three days of their arrival.

Sununu said the state has come into compliance with the ruling within the past couple of weeks.

The $100 million will go towards funding several new psychiatric care beds across New Hampshire. The state plans on opening 30 new beds at inpatient psychiatric facilities, 60 new transitional housing beds, and 40 new long-term care beds to care for geriatric patients. The state also plans to introduce more mobile crisis teams and open a new forensic hospital, to help those with mental health struggles that have been involved with the criminal justice system.

“(We’re) making sure there are community-driven opportunities so folks don’t just have to rely on a single hub out of Concord or Manchester,” he said.

The state achieved a major milestone of sorts at the start of the pandemic in April 2020 when, for the first time in eight years, no one was waiting in a hospital emergency room for an inpatient psychiatric bed. But the numbers went back up earlier this year as the COVID-19 pandemic carried on and included record numbers of children, health officials said.

New funds

Some New Hampshire businesses that did not lose revenue as anticipated during the pandemic and owe grant money back to the federal government will be allowed to deduct COVID-related expenses to offset what they owe, Sununu said.

A COVID businesses expenses fund will assist businesses with such matters as pro-rated rents, mortgage payments, utility and reopening costs, air filtration improvements, Sununu said.

Some federal relief funds will be reallocated into funds created to help live venues, lodging, and infrastructure projects.

Vaccine surplus

New Hampshire currently has a vaccine surplus, and it would consider sharing it with Canada, as part of the effort to reopen the border.

“I understand Canada is way behind the United States in terms of vaccine distribution,” Sununu said. “In fact, if we have extra vaccine, I’m more than willing to give it to Canada.” He said he has asked President Joe Biden for permission.

Biden announced Thursday that the U.S. will donate 75% of its unused COVID-19 vaccines to the U.N.-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing program, acting as more Americans have been vaccinated and global inequities have become more glaring. U.S. allies and partners including Mexico and Canada were on the list.

Employee vaccination

The New Hampshire House on Thursday rejected an attempt to prohibit businesses from requiring employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or asking employees or customers about their vaccination status.

The proposal was offered as an amendment to a Senate-passed bill that would make permanent several of the emergency orders issued during the pandemic, including the expansion of outdoor dining and the creation of a new job category to assist nurses in long-term care facilities. The amendment failed on a vote of 182-193, and the House then passed the underlying bill.

Under the failed amendment, only hospitals and nursing homes would have been allowed to require employees to get vaccinated. It also would have given the Legislature control over whether schools could require students to receive any future vaccines.

School input

Building on feedback from last year, the New Hampshire Department of Education is once again asking parents, educators, and community members to take a survey on how schools responded to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last spring, a survey of remote instruction and the return to school generated more than 56,000 responses, helping to shape the state’s K-12 Back to School Guidance.

Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said the current survey will “provide valuable information for schools that are already crafting plans for fall instructional programs.”

People can respond to the survey online through June 30.

Available links are for families in K-12, Preschool, and Private Schools at bit.ly/nhdoefamily; staff in public and private schools at bit.ly/nhdoestaff; and community members at bit.ly/nhdoecommunity.

Numbers

Nearly 99,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, including 74 cases announced Thursday. One new death was announced; the total number remained at 1,354.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire decreased over the past two weeks, going from 126 new cases per day on May 18 to 46 new cases a day Tuesday.

(Material from an Associated Press report was included in this story.)



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