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N.H. Lawmakers Hear Hours of Testimony on Upcoming State Budget

Paige Sutherland/NHPR
The House Chamber was filled Monday, March 13, 2017 with people testifying on the state's upcoming budget.

House budget writers heard six hours of public testimony last night regarding the state’s upcoming two-year spending plan.

The dozens of people who spoke mainly focused on funding for services for developmental disabilities, substance abuse and mental health.

Hundreds of people showed up at the Statehouse Monday afternoon to speak to and at times plead with state budget writers about where the state should prioritize spending. 

Those who filled the House Chamber did not come empty handed – many bearing signs and wearing stickers reading “People Can’t Wait” and “Act 4 Mental Health.”

Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR
Dozens of people told House lawmakers that developmental disability funding should be a spending priority.

Many who testified called for increased funding for the developmentally disabled.

“We are worthy and you must keep investing in us because we matter," said 21-year-old Forrest Beaudoin-Friede of Temple, who has down-syndrome.

Beaudoin-Friede’s mother also testified – asking lawmakers to keep Governor Chris Sununu’s proposed $57 million increase for developmental services in the budget.

Many pointed to the state's waiting list for such services, which currently stands at nearly 200 people.

Another topic that drew large numbers to the microphone was mental health services.

Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR
Monique Miller, who's son battles schizophrenia, begged lawmakers to invest more money in mental health services.

Monique Miller of Londonderry spoke of her 23-year-old son Tyler who waited in the Emergency Room for nearly three weeks because of a shortage of beds at New Hampshire Hospital.

“I’m begging you the mental health services in New Hampshire have become inhuman – and almost non-existent," Miller said with tears. "When you ignore the mental health problem, they don’t go away, they become part of another crisis, suicide, homelessness, drug addiction.”

Miller says her son battles schizophrenia. She told lawmakers that a lack of  treatment has delayed his recovery.

Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR
More than a hundred people signed up to speak at Monday's public hearing on the state budget.

Substance abuse spending also drew many speakers.  Dean LeMire, who works at a treatment center in Concord and is in recovery, focused on funding for the state’s alcohol fund.

“The names behind those votes will have to answer for increased deaths and financial burden to the state after once again putting politics before reason," LeMire said 

House budget writers have until April to finish their version of the state spending plan. Then the Senate gets its turn. 

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