At a meeting Monday morning at the Sununu Youth Center in Manchester, a bipartisan group of N.H. lawmakers discussed several options of how the facility can save money due to its low enrollment. The facility currently houses 44 people but it can hold 144.
Senate and House members applauded the juvenile detention center for operating at a third of its capacity. but said it needs to better utilize its funding in order to serve more youth.
The group did; however, rule out closing the facility.
Senate Finance Chair Jeanie Forrester suggests the center would better utilize its resources if it opened its substance abuse and mental health services up to youth not in the criminal system. “It’s a good thing that the numbers are down but the numbers are higher in other places and so let’s not just have this be the facility for these types of young people lets address the other needs,” Forrester said after the meeting.
Penny Sampson, who directs the center, said this is a idea the facility is on board with.“The numbers are down nationally for juvenile detention facilities because we are doing a better job of diagnosing kids earlier on, and so for us to look at serving a wider array of needs of substance use issues and mental health issues, I think this is a great conversation,” Sampson said.
Another option mentioned was seeking privatized providers or getting the center certified as a Medicaid facility but that process could take up to two years.