EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

December 11, 2012

N.H. to add 12 more psychiatric beds

(Continued)

“We’re truly an acute care, short-stay institution,” he said last month. “The days of institutions keeping people indefinitely are over.”

Yesterday, Toumpas said the Department Health and Human Services will be seeking more money in the state budget to help alleviate the problem, but, in the meantime, announced intermediate steps to reduce the wait.

These include daily tracking of people awaiting a bed at the state hospital, using psychiatric staff to help emergency room physicians in managing behavioral crises, providing better community follow-up and temporarily reopening 12 beds at the state hospital.

“Let me be clear, we cannot do this on our own,” Toumpas said. “This is a very complex subject and involves the coordination of many partners.”

He is looking for support from community mental health centers, NAMI-NH, law enforcement, local hospitals and others.

The New Hampshire Community Behavioral Health Association said the announcement acknowledges the problem, but isn’t a permanent solution.

The association’s president, Jay Couture, said until the state invests in community-based services, “there will continue to be places where people who are seriously ill will fall through the cracks and not receive timely, appropriate care.”

Victor Topo, executive director for the the Center for Life Management in Derry, one of the state supported regional mental health centers, said the remedial effort by DHHS is welcome and hopefully will lead to a more permanent solution.

“This has been a significant issue, no question about it,” Topo said. “I know for a fact patients have been stuck for days.”

That’s the case for centers throughout the state, and for both adults and juveniles seeking mental health care, he said.

Norton said advocates and health care organizations will have more to say next month when they push for better state funding for mental health services.

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