CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A report looking at New Hampshire’s health system on Friday recommended increasing patients’ access to community-based services, such as peer support, crisis units and urgent care, to help alleviate the burden on hospital emergency rooms.
The state Department of Health and Human Services said the report will serve as a foundation for the development of its 10-year health plan. The evaluation was conducted by the Massachusetts-based research firm Human Services Research Institute and was called for in legislation signed in June by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.
Health Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers said the evaluation confirms what the department had suspected — that the lack of services is prohibiting the timely discharge of patients from New Hampshire Hospital, the state’s hospital for the mentally ill.
The legislation Sununu signed was aimed at addressing a growing problem of people waiting for days in emergency rooms for psychiatric treatment beds. Under the law, the state will contract with private hospitals and nonprofit facilities to set up 20 beds at designated receiving facilities for people subject to involuntary admission and 40 community-based beds to help people transition from New Hampshire Hospital.
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“While the department has and will continue to focus efforts on transitioning those waiting for mental health beds,” Meyers said, “the wait list cannot be fully addressed until there is greater capacity in the mental health system to increase patient access to community-based services.”
Among the report’s long-term, systemwide recommendations are encouraging communities to share responsibility with the state for promoting high-quality behavioral health services and working on retaining psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists, social workers and other professionals.
The research firm reviewed more than 50 reports, presentations and data sets. It interviewed 55 stakeholders to identify gaps in the health system to respond to people in need of behavioral health services.