(4-9-19) New Hampshire’s abhorrent practice of housing its seriously mentally ill citizens, who have not been charged with crimes, inside a state prison rather than treating them in a hospital is again making headlines.
Governor Chris Sununu sought to stop this horrific practice by requesting $26 million in funding to build a 60-bed state hospital that would be opened by June 2021 with its own secure unit.
But Democrats on the state’s finance committee rejected Sununu’s plan, opting instead to spend $5 million to renovate rooms in an existing state hospital for a limited number of higher-need patients.
What makes this dispute newsworthy is it has pitted two groups, both created to help patients, against each other.
Disability Rights Center-NH opposed building a new state hospital. In a statement, it agreed that civilly committed patients should not be housed in a state prison, but it argued that building a new state hospital would “divert precious funds and workforce from where they are most needed: community-based mental health services.”
“Spending millions of dollars to significantly expand the state’s mental health health institutional bed capacity undermines the state’s ability to invest in much needed sustainable changes to the state’s community mental health system.”
It called for more spending on assertive community treatment, supportive housing, supported employment and mobile crisis response teams .