Health

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NHPR Staff

The state senate yesterday unanimously passed two bills aimed at boosting mental health services and protecting vulnerable children.

The votes came on the same day Governor Chris Sununu was outlining his budget which looks to tackle some of the same issues.

One bill, passed Thursday, would add 77 positions to the Department for Children, Youth, and Families over the next two years. That's 15 more positions than Sununu called for in his speech.

PEXELS

New Hampshire's shortage of workers not only affects the state's overall economic growth, but it's also limiting access to health care services.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Bob MacLeod, the CEO of Mid-State Health Center in Plymouth, about how he's struggling to find enough primary care physicians to keep up with the demand.

This is a partial transcript from the interview. To hear the whole conversation, click on the audio above.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

As part of NHPR's Crossroad: The N.H. Opioid Reporting Project, The Exchange went on the road on February 7, 2019 to the Nashua Public Library for a live discussion on how the city is taking a multi-pronged approach to tackle the opioid crisis. 

This discussion was recorded at the Nashua Public Library on February 7th, and an edited version of the conversation airs on NHPR on Thursday, February 14th at 9 a.m. and again at 7 p.m.

The full conversation is available below. You can find the edited conversation here

Paige Sutherland / NHPR

A proposal to transfer jurisdiction of the state's only secure psychiatric unit to the Department of Health and Human Services went before lawmakers today.

For decades New Hampshire's secure psychiatric unit, or SPU, has been at the state prison. That means some patients who need secure treatment, but have committed no crime, have to get help behind prison walls.

New data shows a widespread shortage in health care workers across New Hampshire.

The data, released by the public health advocacy group New Futures, shows that across the state's 10 community mental health centers there are more than 200 open positions. That's an increase in vacancies of more than 20 percent over the past two years.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

An effort to fund new public health positions like a state toxicologist and a water quality analyst went before a Senate committee Tuesday.

The idea for the positions comes from the recommendations of two legislative commissions. One was set up to investigate a pediatric cancer cluster on the Seacoast. The other investigated environmentally triggered diseases more broadly.

Allison Quantz

State health officials are warning that New Hampshire is in the early stages of a Hepatitis A outbreak.

Thirteen people across southern New Hampshire have become infected by the virus over the past three months. That's already more cases than in the average year.

Hepatitis A is transmitted by ingesting small undetected amounts of stool from an infected person.

The New Hampshire House is considering legislation that would extend the list of qualifying conditions for the state’s therapeutic cannabis program.

If passed, House Bill 461 would include Lyme disease, insomnia and anxiety as allowable conditions for medical marijuana.

Allison Quantz for NHPR

Two of the state's largest hospitals have taken the first step toward merging into a new healthcare network.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock and GraniteOne Health, an existing group that includes Catholic Medical Center, signed a letter of intent Thursday to combine under a new entity. But this is not the first hospital partnership that New Hampshire has seen in the past few years.

Two of the state's largest hospitals are hoping to combine forces in a new healthcare network.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock and GraniteOne Health, an existing group that includes Catholic Medical Center, signed a letter of intent Thursday to combine under a new entity called Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health GraniteOne.

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.

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Researchers at the University of New Hampshire are studying how spending time outdoors might help people who are struggling with substance use disorders.

It's called outdoor behavioral therapy. Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Michael Gass, a professor and the current director of the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Center at UNH.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

The Office of Child Advocate is calling for additional caseworkers and additional training at the Division of Children, Youth and Families. That was one of many recommendations from the OCA in its first annual report released Monday.

The Office of Child Advocate was created about a year ago in the wake of the deaths of two children at the hands of abusive parents. The deaths occurred despite the fact that both cases had been reported to DCYF.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

A new report from the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argues the rollout of New Hampshire's work requirement for expanded Medicaid beneficiaries is doomed to the same problems that have hampered a similar policy in Arkansas.

Jason Moon / NHPR

A new state advisory council on opioid overprescribing will use data analysis to better understand the state's opioid crisis.

Governor Chris Sununu signed an executive order creating the New Hampshire Opioid Overprescribing and Misuse Project Advisory Council Thursday afternoon. 

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The Executive Council has approved a $4.4 million contract to fund a new behavioral health crisis treatment center.

The contract, awarded to Riverbend Community Health, will fund a 24/7 crisis center in Concord. It will provide short-term treatment to stabilize patients before connecting them with community mental health resources.

Riverbend CEO Peter Evers says the center will be an alternative to emergency rooms for first responders dropping off someone in a mental health crisis.

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The New Hampshire Hospital Association has moved to intervene in a lawsuit against the state brought by the ACLU-NH.

The lawsuit addresses the current practice of emergency room boarding, where patients who are involuntarily committed for acute psychiatric treatment are sometimes held for weeks in emergency rooms without a probable cause hearing.

Dan Tuohy/NHPR

State lawmakers are pushing back against changes made by the Trump administration to a new work requirement in the state’s expanded Medicaid program.

Members of the committee that oversees administrative rules unanimously objected to the changes the Trump administration introduced when it approved the work requirement for Medicaid expansion last month.

NHPR File

About 5,000 fewer people in New Hampshire signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act's individual marketplace this year compared to last.

Covering New Hampshire, the organization that works with advocates and health care providers to promote the law, says 44,930 people signed up for a marketplace plan during the enrollment period that ended Dec. 15. That number, which includes those who were renewing coverage, is down from 50,275 last year.

With just days remaining in the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplace, public officials are encouraging people to sign up before it’s too late.

Open enrollment ends this Saturday, Dec. 15.

So far, enrollments have been down about 20 percent in New Hampshire compared to last year. State Insurance Department Commissioner John Elias says there are several factors behind that trend, including a reduction in the federal budget for public outreach.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR News

Veterans and families who lived and worked at the former Pease Air Force Base want the government to begin collecting data about their disease rates and possible ties to chemical exposures on the installation.   

At a forum in an aircraft hangar Friday, dozens of people stood at a microphone and told an Air National Guard colonel about their health problems and their experiences at the base.

Sara Plourde for NHPR

State officials say they are still working out how much it will cost to enforce a newly approved work requirement for some beneficiaries of New Hampshire's expanded Medicaid program.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has approved a request by the state of New Hampshire to implement a work requirement for some Medicaid recipients in the state.

The new rules will require certain Medicaid recipients to log at least 100 hours a month in qualifying activities, including but not limited to holding a job, going to school, or participating in community service.

Certain populations, like people participating in a drug court program, or the parent of a dependent child with a disability, are exempted from the work requirement.

Mothers' Milk Bank

The state’s first donor breast milk dispensary is scheduled to open at the Belmont Medical Center next week.

The new donor milk dispensary will operate like a pharmacy for mothers and babies who have a donor milk prescription.

Naomi Bar-Yam is executive director of Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, which is partnering with LRGHealthcare to launch the dispensary. She says while donor milk is currently available at hospitals and by direct mail, the dispensary will address the need for mothers who need donor milk on short notice.

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New Hampshire is on track to sign up about 20 percent fewer people under the Affordable Care Act during this year’s enrollment period.

Open enrollment for the New Hampshire ACA marketplace is still open – through December 15. So far about 11,400 people have signed up for health insurance plans. That compares to about 15,000 at the same point last year.

Nationally, sign-ups are down about 13 percent.

Allison Quantz for NHPR

A new program looks to pair Dartmouth medical students as mentors with LGBTQ youth in the Upper Valley.

Qmmunity is a collaboration between the Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine and the group Rural Outright.

It’s based on the idea that young people with differing sexual orientations and identities who are living in rural areas face extra challenges to their mental health and well-being.

Matt Mooshian with Rural Outright says pairing up with a Dartmouth med student will give the teens support and a positive role model.

NHPR Photo

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has unveiled a draft version of a new 10-year plan for improving mental health services.

The 10-year plan is a roadmap for the reforms needed to strengthen the state’s mental health infrastructure.

In recent years, one of the most pressing issues has been a shortage of beds at in-patient mental health facilities.

FDA

   

In a major new effort to curb smoking, a top U.S. health official pledged Thursday to try to ban menthol from regular cigarettes, outlaw flavors in all cigars and tighten rules governing the sale of most flavored versions of electronic cigarettes.

The restrictions are aimed mainly at reducing smoking in kids: About half of teens who smoke cigarettes choose menthols, and flavored e-cigarettes have been blamed for a recent increase in teen vaping rates.

Allison Quantz for NHPR

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is preparing to launch a new telemedicine unit focused on intensive care.

Telemedicine, basically doctor’s visits by video conference, is a growing trend in healthcare -- and now Dartmouth-Hitchcock is hoping to use it to support intensive care units all over the region.

Instead of video-conferencing with a patient at home, intensive care specialists at Dartmouth-Hitchcock will connect with other doctors and nurses around the region to provide on-demand consultation.

UNH's nurse practitioner programs will now include training in medication-assisted treatments for addiction.

Nurse practitioners, like doctors, can write prescriptions and can serve as a patient's primary care provider. Thanks to a new $450,000 federal grant, nurse practitioner students at UNH will now be trained in how to use medication to treat addiction.

Gene Harkless is the chair of the UNH department of nursing. She says the new program will increase the amount of addiction treatment available in the state as communities continue to grapple with the opioid epidemic.

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