Governor Maggie Hassan today released the report of the Sentinel Event Review that she requested in November to address concerns raised by recent incidents involving patients with acute mental illness, as well as to evaluate the ongoing strains caused by mental health patients awaiting care in emergency rooms.
The review was led by former Supreme Court Justice Joseph Nadeau, who currently chairs the state's Board of Mental Health Practice, with the support of Dr. Alexander P. de Nesnera from the Geisel School of Medicine and the Associate Medical Director of the New Hampshire Hospital, and Senior Assistant Attorney General Michael Brown.
The team's report emphasizes that a variety of factors -- the economic downturn, increased substance abuse, reductions in state hospital beds, reductions in psychiatric beds at New Hampshire hospitals, and reductions in community-based services - have all contributed to New Hampshire's strained mental health system and that changes are needed at all levels to provide more appropriate and more effective mental health care to those in need.
"This report underscores the significant challenges faced by those with mental illness in New Hampshire as well as health care providers, and we must continue working together to strengthen community-based mental health services that will help prevent individuals from reaching the point of crisis," Governor Hassan said. "Most importantly, we must recognize that individuals who experience mental health challenges deserve the same level of compassionate care and treatment that we would expect for any other health care need, care that allows them to be fully included in our communities and economy."
"I look forward to working with the Governor and the community to address the state of our mental health system," Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas of the Department of Health and Human Services said. "This review contributes greatly to a dialogue that must happen in each community and at the state level."
The report calls for a continued commitment to implementing the enhanced community mental health services in the current state budget, including expanded access to acute care beds, adding a new designated receiving facility (DRF), adding community residence beds, providing subsidies for housing and support services, adding 10 Assertive Community Treatment Teams to assist people in crisis, and increasing other community support services.
In addition, the review team found that additional investment in an integrated range of mental health services, especially to address housing, is needed, along with enhanced training of hospital personnel to address mental health crises, more appropriate treatment of cases of mental illness co-occurring with acute substance abuse, and expanded access to health insurance that provides coverage for mental health. The report calls for continued dialogue and meaningful action by the leaders of our public sector and private health care facilities.
The recent budget, combined with pending legislation to implement the settlement of a lawsuit about the state of New Hampshire's mental health system, will make it possible to make significant improvements in the community-based care system.
And expanding Medicaid, Governor Hassan said, would provide funding for mental health care for many currently uninsured patients.
Those dollars do not address the report's recommendations for increased training for hospital and other health care personnel who treat mentally ill patients.
"I look forward to working with our hospitals, community mental health centers and other community providers to collaboratively address the recommendations in this report and to help ensure that individuals with mental illness are treated compassionately and appropriately, just as we would expect for any patient in our health care system," Governor Hassan said. "I thank Justice Nadeau, Dr. de Nesera and Assistant Attorney General Brown for their work on this important review, as well as all who cooperated with the team. I will contin