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N.H. Senate's Top Budget Writer Says Federal Aid Should Go Towards Mental Health Services

New Hampshire Senator Chuck Morse
Allegra Boverman

The president of the New Hampshire Senate is indicating a chunk of the nearly $1 billion in federal aid heading to the state will be spent on mental health needs. Senate President Chuck Morse told colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday that he didn’t expect policymakers to begin spending the half-billion dollars of federal aid set to flow to the state this year until later this summer, but he wants officials with the state health department to have a complete plan for mental health, pronto.

“I basically think what the Senate is going to want to see from the department is what the plan for mental health is in total, before we close the budget,” he said.

Morse’s push comes a week after the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled the state can no longer detain people indefinitely in emergency rooms while they wait for inpatient mental health treatment. In the wake of the ruling, which addressed a longstanding practice, Gov. Chris Sununu granted state health officials new powers to make changes.

Senate budget writers are working through spending priorities this week, refashioning the budget plan passed by the New Hampshire House last month. Though both chambers hold Republican majorities, differences are emerging between the two. For example, senators reversed a House proposal requiring the state Department of Health of Human Services cut spending by $50 million over the next two years.

Family planning services continue to be a partisan flashpoint in the budget process.

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee rejected an effort by Democrats to add $1.2 million to fund family planning clinics.

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The parties were also at odds over language House Republicans put in their spending plan that would require entities that provide state-funded family planning services to keep their health care services separate “financially and physically” from any services related to abortion.

Democratic Sen. Cindy Rosenwald of Nashua said the ban will reduce access to family planning and discriminate against certain types of medical providers.

“We don’t do this to urologists, for example, who do vasectomies and also treat prostate cancer,” Rosenwald said.

Republican Sen. Bob Giuda of Warren, who supports the ban, disputed the analogy.

“I might remind my colleague from Nashua, that a vasectomy does not end a life,” Guida said.

The Senate held off on voting on that family planning provision, which is one of several non-budgetary items House Republicans added to their budget to win conservative support for the plan.   

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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