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Sununu Urges Lawmakers To Include Funding For New Secure Psychiatric Unit

josh rogers/ nhpr

Governor Chris Sununu got a standing ovation during his budget address in February when he promised to build a new forensic hospital outside the walls of the state prison.

The facility would treat people with mental illness who are considered dangerous to themselves or others.

But Sununu's vision -- a $26 million, 40-bed facility -- which he included in his budget without a building site or staffing plan, has become a flash point.

Therapy booths at the secure psychiatric unit on the grounds of New Hampshire State Prison

House budget writers, citing lack of detail and other pressing needs, stripped it from their their spending plan.

Sununu used a press conference at Concord Hospital to defend his approach to fixing the mental health system.

"Are we taking drastic measures? You bet we are. Are we taking the right measures? Undoubtedly. Because we've listened to the families, we've listened to the stakeholders."

But support for the proposed facility, which top state officials say will ease the mental health boarding crisis at local hospitals, isn't universal among mental health advocates.

The New Hampshire Disabilities Rights Center says the new psych unit could lead to people being institutionalized needlessly, and that the money would be better spend on local mental health services.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.
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