The Department of Health and Human Services has released the final version of a new 10-year plan for improving mental health services in the state. The plan, which gathered public input over a series of meetings last fall, calls for immediate action on a number of fronts, including the boarding of mental patients in emergency rooms and the state’s increasing suicide rate.
Among the plan’s recommendations are an increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates for mental health services, an increase in the number of beds for inpatient treatment at New Hampshire Hospital, and more robust community-based mental health services.
The projected cost of the recommendations over the next biennium totals more than $21 million.
Mental health advocates are welcoming the new 10-year plan as a significant step toward rebuilding the state’s mental health system following the 2013 settlement of a class-action lawsuit over the lack of mental health services in the state. Ken Norton with the National Alliance on Mental Illness said in a statement that the plan “will bring NH’s mental health service delivery system into the 21st century.”
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday ahead of the new plan’s release, Governor Chris Sununu touted recent investments made in the state’s mental health system while highlighting the importance of the new 10-year plan.
“We’ve made mental health a top priority for the past two years. We’ve made great investments, great strides, we’re more in compliance with the 10-year mental health plan than ever before,” said Sununu, referring to the state’s previous 10-year mental health plan. “We have a new 10-year mental health plan that is going to be released that is stakeholder driven. All of these things really come into play in making sure that whatever we do, we have a system that’s going to work for the long term,” said Sununu.
Sununu’s remark about coming into compliance with the last 10-year mental health plan is a reminder that 10-year mental health plans are not binding documents. Following through on the many recommendations of the new plan will be up to Governor Sununu and lawmakers beginning this legislative session.