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Executive Council approves $13M purchase of psychiatric hospital in Hampstead

Throughout the pandemic, Hampstead Hospital has been unable to use about 70 of its 111 beds because it has enough staff for only about 40.
Alli Fam
Throughout the pandemic, Hampstead Hospital has been unable to use about 70 of its 111 beds because it has enough staff for only about 40.

With an aim to bolster mental health services for younger residents, the State of New Hampshire is now a step closer to purchasing Hampstead Hospital, a privately-run psychiatric facility.

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On Wednesday, the Executive Council voted unanimously to approve the $13 million purchase using federal funds, as well as a separate $2.2 million contract to provide short-term staffing at Hampstead through a private vendor. The deal is slated to finalize in the spring.

“It’s not going to solve all of our problems, but it is going to make it better,” N.H. Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette told the council about the hospital acquisition.

New Hampshire has struggled for years to meet the demand for emergency psychiatric care for both adults and youth, with patients routinely waiting days or weeks inside emergency rooms for a bed to open at an appropriate facility. The demand for acute psychiatric care has spiked during the pandemic, with a current daily average of 16 children statewide inside of emergency rooms waiting for a bed.

Hampstead is licensed to treat 111 patients but has been serving around 45 people due to staffing shortages. With the private staffing contract approved Wednesday, the state expects to expand its capacity by 10 to 20 beds.

Under state control, the hospital will focus on caring for children and youth up to age 25, including offering acute and longer-term treatment options.

Current employees of the facility are expected to be offered positions when the deal closes, with some senior managers of Hampstead Hospital becoming state employees.

The state remains in ongoing negotiations with the Town of Hampstead over lost tax revenues, as the property moves from private hands to government control. The state is likely to make voluntary payments to the town to “ensure no loss of revenue exists to the town as a result of this transaction,” according to documents associated with the deal.

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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