N.H. Lawmakers Acknowledge Problems at Secure Psych Unit, Say There's Long Road Ahead

Oct 24, 2016

New Hampshire lawmakers say the state’s 30-year practice of treating non-criminals with severe mental illness at the state prison should be addressed next legislative session.

During a committee hearing Thursday, lawmakers agreed this policy should change but how is more tricky. 

At the state's psychiatric hospital, people who are considered violent to themselves or others are sent over to a secure psychiatric unit that's part of the state prison.  It's a practice few other states have.

Twice the legislature, through legislative studies, has said it should stop - even recommending the state build a separate secure mental hospital.

In a Health and Human Services Committee meeting on Thursday, House lawmakers killed a bill filed by Rep. Renny Cushing last year to treat this population at the state hospital or in another state. But they did agree further action is needed. 

Cushing says he’ll introduce another bill next session and he’s hopeful this time – it will pass. 

“We’ve been neglecting people with severe mental illness for three decades in New Hampshire doing something that no other state does – criminalizing people with mental illness and it’s time for New Hampshire to stop doing that,” Cushing stressed after Thursday's hearing.

Cushing also filed a complaint with the federal civil rights bureau. That case is currently under investigation.