On May 11, the New Hampshire Senate unanimously passed an amendment to House Bill (HB) 400, which is intended to significantly improve access to beds for psychiatric patients and reorganize the state’s Division for Children, Youth and Families.
Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem) and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) originally brought the mental health component to the legislation, which was introduced in January 2017.
Citing a shortage in the capacity to provide emergency mental health care and long-term treatment for patients, the Senators proposed that the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services undertake and complete specific actions.
The bill calls for 20 transitional and community beds by the end of FY2018 and up to 40 transitional and community beds by the end of FY2019. All of these beds are to include wraparound services and other supports; patients discharged from New Hampshire Hospital and designated receiving facilities will be given priority.
The commissioner was to issue a request for application to qualified vendors for these services no later than June 30, 2017 and housing must be in place by October 1, 2017, according to the bill.
The final language of the bill, which became part of the budget bill, HB 517, charges DHHS with developing a “…comprehensive 10-year plan for the mental health system…” which must be submitted to the senate president, speaker of the house and governor before July 1, 2018.
Part of this plan should offer “…recommendations to ensure statutory and due process rights of patients…” in hospital emergency rooms who face involuntary admission.
The commissioner is also asked to issue a request for proposal to peer agencies that can provide as many as eight peer crisis respite beds. Mobile crisis teams will also be established in geographic areas where there are high admission and discharge rates.
The bill requires the commissioner to seek vendors to develop and implement an integrated data management system that will provide real time information about the availability of involuntary and voluntary inpatient psychiatric beds.
In addition, the commissioner is to create a universal online prior authorization form for drugs used to treat mental illness by July 15, 2017; community mental health centers and managed care organizations will be required to start using the form by September 1, 2017.
The bill also calls for an independent consultant to conduct a review of the Division for Children, Youth and Families to be completed no later than November 1, 2019.
In a statement released after the Senate passed the bill, Senator Morse cited the “…staggering number of people waiting from across the state…” for beds at New Hampshire Hospital. He also noted that he hoped the addition of 68 treatment beds would enhance community mental health services.
Also in the news release, Sen. Bradley, co-sponsor of the bill, said, “Passage of HB 400 represents a significant step towards mitigating this unacceptable situation.”
By Phyllis Hanlon