The state budget cuts over the past two years have impacted the health of our patients and the public health infrastructure in many ways, but perhaps the most damaging cuts have fallen on those with mental illness.  In 2009, the legislature's budget resulted in the closure of 60 beds at New Hampshire Hospital (NHH) the state’s inpatient psychiatric care hospital.  The community mental health safety net took a significant hit as well.  While this made the budget look better on the surface, the problems associated with mental illness did not disappear and neither did their costs.  

Yesterday we received good news from the state. Health and Human Services Commissioner, Nick Toumpas, announced short term and long term plans to address the state's mental health crisis.  

Initially the plan is to open a limited number of beds at NHH, improve the discharge process to prevent re-admissions, and to provide support to ED physicians treating psychiatric patients awaiting transfer to NHH. Longer term planning includes bolstering the community mental health system to help patients with mental illness stay out of the hospital by providing adequate support.   The immediate steps are under way; the longer term steps are going to need our help.  The Concord Monitor reports that Governor Elect Hassan is open to the plan but the legislature would need to include the proposal in the next budget.  The NH Medical Society will be advocating for our patients and the mental health system in NH as the legislature considers the state's budget.

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