The Bulletin Board

What’s keeping some at state hospital? No transitional housing

By: - April 19, 2021 3:34 pm
Department of Health and Human Services

The Department of Health and Human Services in Concord. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

A lack of transitional housing is among the top reasons people remain in New Hampshire Hospital longer than needed, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. An unexpected delay in adding 22 more spots means that’s not changing soon.

It also means that adults in a psychiatric crisis will continue to wait in emergency rooms for a hospital bed to open. On Sunday, that number was 54 adults.

Katja Fox, director of the Division of Behavioral Health, told the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee on Friday that organizations able to provide services to ease people back into the community won’t do it for the $5 million the Legislature set aside last year.

“We had a committee that was telling us in very strong terms that the rates just don’t cut it,” Fox said. “So, for the state to expect them to stand up these beds, we have to address that.”

The department plans to talk with the Senate Finance Committee about additional funding and to “address the fact that we can’t expect providers to have beds that just aren’t financially viable for them.”

News is a bit better for children who sometimes wait days in emergency rooms for a psychiatric bed.

In May, Hampstead Hospital will have an additional seven beds, bringing its total to 23. But Fox and committee members are concerned the number of children in need of hospitalization may increase as schools reopen this week.

The Legislature had intended for the department to add 40 new transitional housing beds before June for people who no longer need hospital-level care but are not ready to live alone. It has been able to add only 18, 16 of them on the grounds of New Hampshire Hospital.

In a presentation to lawmakers last week, the department said a lack of transitional housing and nursing home beds are the top barriers to discharge. As an example, it said of the 53 adults awaiting discharge on Feb. 28, 2021, 18 needed transitional housing, 12 a nursing home.

Chart on barriers to release
(Source: Department of Health and Human Services)

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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. Email: [email protected]