NH DHHS Response to USDOJ Investigation

Concord - In 2008, New Hampshire undertook a critical analysis of the State’s mental health system and concluded that some improvements needed to be made. The resulting document, entitled “A Strategy for Restoration,” established a ten-year timetable and budget for expanding a series of services and programs to enhance community integration for individuals with mental illness. New Hampshire has made significant progress in implementing the plan, despite a very challenging fiscal climate.

For example, New Hampshire has established eight Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Teams in areas where admission rates to New Hampshire Hospital were highest. The two newest teams, created on March 1, 2011, are supported by funds redirected from the New Hampshire Hospital budget. New Hampshire also established an evidence-based Supported Employment program that provides access to the program at five times the national average.

New Hampshire continues to demonstrate leadership in developing and providing highly effective community-based services for persons with mental illness. New Hampshire’s sole in-patient psychiatric hospital has evolved from a chronic care institution for 2500 residents into an acute care hospital with 155 beds. The median length of stay for an adult is 7 days, compared to a national average of 47 days.

As part of a nationwide initiative, The US Department of Justice issued a report alleging that New Hampshire has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide services to people with mental illness in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.

The State does not agree with this finding.

In Olmstead v. L.C. (1999), the United States Supreme Court held that the “unnecessary segregation of individuals in institutions” constitutes illegal discrimination. The Court offered guidance recommending that states “develop a comprehensive, effectively working plan for placing qualified persons with mental disabilities in less restrictive settings.”

As detailed above, New Hampshire created just such a plan and remains committed to serving people who have a mental illness in settings that maximizes individual freedom and autonomy. New Hampshire believes that the most effective way to accomplish that goal is to stay focused on the implementation of the State’s Plan.

It is important to note that USDOJ does not question the quality of care and services being provided by New Hampshire Hospital, Glencliff Home or the community mental health system.

The Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Office, will be responding back to the United States Department of Justice with a written response to their report.