The Bulletin Board

Executive Council approves request to address staffing issues at Sununu Center

By: - January 3, 2022 1:01 pm
Exterior sign for the Sununu Youth Services Center

The state spends about $13 million a year to run the Sununu Youth Services Center. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

An increased need for juvenile mental health services and a historic challenge in recruiting youth counselors for the Sununu Youth Services Center has the Department of Health and Human Services looking to a staffing agency for help.

The Executive Council has approved the department’s request to pay Maxim Healthcare in Manchester nearly $847,000 in federal money to provide 18 youth counselors immediately. 

The state spends about $13 million a year to run the Manchester center to serve children ages 13 to 17 who’ve been ordered to a secure institutional setting by the juvenile justice system. 

While the facility has 144 beds, it has been averaging about nine children a day, according to a September report from a consultant hired to recommend steps for closing the center and transitioning youth to a more appropriate setting.

The department could not be immediately reached to say whether the population has grown. But the mental health needs of residents have been exacerbated by COVID-19.

In its request to the Executive Council, the department said nearly half the children there were in such danger of harming themselves, a single counselor could care for only one or two residents at a time.

The state has looked to Maxim Healthcare for help filling other positions. At its last meeting, the Executive Council approved a separate contract worth $6.34 million in federal money to fill approximately 70 temporary public health jobs.

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.

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