NH DHHS - New Hampshire Mental Health Strategy Released

Multi-Year Plan Seeks To Overhaul Broken Mental Health Care System

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

(DHHS) today released a multi-year plan to overhaul the State’s mental health care delivery system. A task force made up of DHHS and community behavioral health care providers and advocates have spent the past year and a half studying the issue and crafting a strategic plan.

“NH’s mental health care system is failing,” said DHHS CommissionerNicholas Toumpas, “and the consequence of these failures is being realized across the state and its communities. The impacts of the broken system are seen in the stress put on local law enforcement, hospital emergency rooms, the court system and county jails, and most importantly, in the harm that under- treated mental health conditions cause NH citizens and their families. While there is a strong foundation to work from, it’s time to begin to restore our mental health system in a systematic process that has long term, measurable goals.”

“Our recommendation for restoring the system is offered as an investment strategy,” said Administrator of the Bureau of Behavioral Health Erik Riera, “rather than simply as a proposal for increased spending as the next state operating budget is developed. With a clear strategy in place, we can avoid the risk of living from budget to budget, and instead ensure that we are investing in a comprehensive system, improving care, and not shifting the burden onto other levels of government.”

The task force has made several recommendations to tackle the broken system and proposes the plan be implemented over a ten-year period. The recommendations include:

Increasing the Availability of Community Residential Supports

Formal supported housing programs to improve access to housing subsidies while providing intensive targeted case management

A bridging rental subsidy for individuals eligible for Section 8 vouchers who are on the waiting list for that voucher

Residential treatment programs with 132 new beds to provide crisis support and specialized housing for persons who are otherwise unable to live independently

Increasing the Capacity for Community-Based Inpatient Psychiatric Care Four additional Designated Receiving Facility (DRF) units across the state providing an additional 48-64 involuntary beds

A taskforce of stakeholders to find ways to expand the availability of voluntary inpatient psychiatric care in community hospitals across the state

Developing Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Teams Twelve new intensive outpatient service teams allowing individuals to recover while reducing repeated use of hospitalization, emergency rooms and jail/prisons

Developing and Retaining a Community Mental Health Workforce Adequate resources to pay and maintain qualified staff for the delivery of mandated and necessary services to persons with serious mental illness

A collaborative to develop a strategy for increasing the number of available residents and experienced psychiatrists in the state Investments in updated academic education and ongoing training for our mental health system workforce

Considering Department of Corrections Study Committee Planning The State of New Hampshire needs to consider any necessary plans for mental health housing, training, and specialized services as related to master planning from House Bill 25- FN-A, Chapter 264:1, Section V. (H) for prison units, secure psychiatric care and the housing of non-violent offenders

“Ultimately, the success of this new investment strategy will be measured in the improved quality of care for NH citizens,” stated Roland Lamy, Executive Director of the NH Community Behavioral Health Association. “Among the outcomes we are looking for are improvements in access to housing for people with behavioral health issues, along with improvements that will expand capacity in the community and allow better and more effective care for individuals and families using local supports. As this plan is implemented, we will see less stress on other services and programs in the community which are now absorbing the overflow of a broken system and shifting cost to other areas of government.”

The Task Force’s “Strategy for Restoration” will be used as a framework for reforms at the agency, provider, and budget and policy levels. The Task Force document will be presented to executive branch, legislative, judicial and local public officials for review and comment. In addition, stakeholders in the community, including hospitals, health centers, families and advocates, will be asked to review and comment on the plan.

The task force report and recommendations can be found at www.dhhs.state.nh.us