N.H. Senate Passes $10 Million Plan to Address Mental Health Bed Shortage

Feb 21, 2019

Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

The New Hampshire Senate today unanimously approved a plan to spend more than $10 million to address a shortage of mental health beds in New Hampshire.

The money would pay for a number of efforts including renovations at existing hospitals to make room for inpatient psychiatric care, a new mobile mental health crisis unit, and new transitional housing for people who are released from inpatient psychiatric care.

Together, the investments are designed to end a practice known as emergency room boarding -- where psychiatric patients are held, sometimes against their will, in emergency rooms because there are no mental health beds available. The state is currently being sued over this practice.

The original bill was sponsored by Senate Democrats, but after a series of negotiations and amendments, the final version was hailed by members of both parties as an example of the fruits of bipartisan cooperation.

“This is a big ask in terms of money, but it's a big problem,” said Republican Senator Jeb Bradley, “and we're able to solve big problems when we work together.”

Democratic Senator Lou D'Allesandro called it “one of the most significant pieces of legislation that we will pass this session.”

Senators from both parties also stressed the notion that this bill is an interim fix that should be part of a broader plan to address mental health capacity in the state long-term.

Both lawmakers and Governor Chris Sununu have put forward plans in recent weeks aimed at accomplishing that goal.