Sununu issues order to expand mental health services

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Gov. Chris Sununu issued an order Thursday expanding access to mental health services, in response to a recent state Supreme Court ruling that psychiatric patients being held involuntarily in emergency rooms must be given a chance to contest their detention promptly.

The order adds beds at receiving facilities and ensures services are received from health care providers. It also ensures better community partnerships.

“This order will also review all mental health services across the entire state to determine if the providers we currently utilize are truly equipped and truly capable of meeting the need of New Hampshire citizens, and we are going to be exploring additional opportunities, both in and out state in the private sector,” Sununu said at his weekly news conference.

The state achieved a major milestone 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 during the pandemic and in recent days, more than 80 mental health patients, including record numbers of children, have been waiting in emergency departments for inpatient beds.

“We’re literally doing it today as we speak,” Sununu said. “Folks are being transferred out, beds are being opened up, investments are being made. Seek out those services.”

He said the most pressing issue is that “we go back to where we were about a year ago, where folks just aren’t waiting in emergency rooms anymore, where those services are being provided,” and creating a long-term plan.

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