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State To Add Some Emergency Beds for Children in Psychiatric Distress

Thomas Fearon

With the number of children and adults in need of psychiatric care being held in emergency rooms reaching historic numbers, the state announced Thursday it will temporarily transition ten beds at New Hampshire Hospital to care for children.

The state has long struggled with a shortage of inpatient and community-based treatment options for people with mental health crises. In recent days, the number of children being held inside emergency rooms waiting to be transferred to a more appropriate facility has grown to 50.

New Hampshire Hospital, which has been caring for adults, will immediately turn a ten-bed unit into a wing for children, Lori Shibinette, commissioner for DHHS, announced Thursday.

“Given what we understand about the acuity rate for the kids, we anticipate that the waitlist will be brought down fairly quickly as we bring kids in to assess, evaluate and discharge with an appropriate plan of care back to the community,” said Shibinette.

The extra capacity will be in place through the spring, according to Shibinette. Hampstead Hospital, which also serves children in mental distress, is also aiming to expand its capacity in the coming months. 

The state is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit in federal court and now before the New Hampshire Supreme Court for its handling of what’s often called the ER boarding crisis. That lawsuit focuses on involuntary admissions, and whether people held within emergency rooms are entitled to a hearing before a judge within three days of admission.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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