secure psychiatric unit

Weekly N.H. News Roundup: April 12, 2019

Apr 12, 2019

The Democratic-led House passes its version of the state spending plan, with funding for the secure psychiatric unit restored.  A bill to repeal the death penalty in the state clears NH Senate with a veto-proof margin. N.H.'s 400 state legislators get paid $100 a year; we examine the conflicts of interest they sometimes encounter in this small state. And another Democrat jumps into the 2020 primary race.

GUESTS:

It's budget season in the legislature -- and the construction of a secure psychiatric unit, a major part of the state’s new ten-year mental health plan, is at the center of a partisan tussle. Also, the state fined real estate developer Brady Sullivan half a million dollars for breaking environmental regulations. And presidential candidates: who’s here this weekend and who’s emerging from the crowded field.

josh rogers/ nhpr

Governor Chris Sununu got a standing ovation during his budget address in February when he promised to build a new forensic hospital outside the walls of the state prison.

The facility would treat people with mental illness who are considered dangerous to themselves or others.

But Sununu's vision -- a $26 million, 40-bed facility -- which he included in his budget without a building site or staffing plan, has become a flash point.

House budget writers, citing lack of detail and other pressing needs, stripped it from their their spending plan.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The New Hampshire House has voted to approve an advisory council to assist in the development of plans for a new psychiatric hospital.

The state's new 10-year plan for mental health plan calls for a new psychiatric hospital and Governor Chris Sununu's proposed budget calls for spending $40 million on it.

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.

Paige Sutherland / NHPR

 

A New Hampshire man who fought his incarceration in a prison psychiatric unit is back at home.

Andrew Butler, 21, of Hollis, was committed to the state psychiatric hospital last fall after police found him running in the woods and punching trees. Though he wasn't charged with a crime, he was transferred to the state prison's secure psychiatric unit in January under a policy that allows such moves if someone can't be safely housed at the hospital.

Paige Sutherland / NHPR

 

Lawyers for a young New Hampshire man say his incarceration in a prison psychiatric unit violates a law governing emergency medical treatment, but state officials are rebutting that claim.

Paige Sutherland / NHPR

Supporters of a man being held in the secure psychiatric unit at New Hampshire State Prison, despite never being convicted of a crime, marched in Concord today. As NHPR’s Josh Rogers reports, the protest comes as a federal judge considers Andrew Butler’s request to be transferred to an accredited mental health facility.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

A New Hampshire lawmaker next session will continue to try improve a decades old state policy that allows people with severe mental illness to be treated on the grounds of the state prison.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Lawmakers approved a new rule designed to grant more due process rights to mental health patients who are transferred to the state prison. But as advocates for mental health reform argued these new protections should not have to exist in the first place.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

New Hampshire lawmakers say the state’s 30-year practice of treating non-criminals with severe mental illness at the state prison should be addressed next legislative session.

During a committee hearing Thursday, lawmakers agreed this policy should change but how is more tricky. 

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

A group of local and national advocates are calling on the federal government to investigate whether it’s unjust for people with a mental illness, who haven't been convicted of a crime, to be treated in a prison.

New Hampshire is one of only a few states that transfers individuals with a violent mental illness to the Department of Corrections, and it’s been doing so for more than three decades.