Lawmakers and department officials have focused for a number of years on reducing the number of adults in emergency rooms waiting to be admitted to New Hampshire Hospital, the state’s psychiatric hospital. But Shibinette told Senate budget writers the pandemic has made clear “the unprecedented need for children’s behavioral health services. The needs for children have skyrocketed.”
She said the problem is not enough in-patient beds, but the solution is not more beds, but to eliminate the crisis through prevention and that has to be done at the community level. Shibinette noted Friday the department would have an announcement on rates and additional beds in the next 30 days.
The department renovated the Philbrook Center on New Hampshire Hospital grounds to create 16 transition beds, but the private sector has not agreed to provide additional beds because of the state’s low reimbursement rates, officials have said. Another issue is finding the workforce to provide services and the agency believes some of the federal COVID-19 money may be used to help address that issue, she said.
During the last budget cycle, the Legislature included $5 million for transitional beds for patients ready to leave New Hampshire Hospital, and additional money to move children out of the facility and create 40 adult beds in that space. The lack of transitional housing beds for patients at New Hampshire Hospital who no longer need that level of care but remain in the facility because they have nowhere to go, is often cited as one of the major reasons for the backlog of patients in hospital emergency rooms.
Shibinette said additional children’s beds will soon be available at Hampstead Hospital which will allow the renovations at New Hampshire Hospital to go forward. The growing number of children in emergency rooms has kept children at the hospital when it was intended they would be moved to Hampstead Hospital.
Shibinette said negotiations are ongoing with several contractors and noted the number of adults in emergency rooms has decreased from three years ago. “There is still a ton of opportunity to do things better,” Shibinette said. “It took 10 years of the system eroding to get to this place and it will take time to fix. It’s not an easy fix.” However, budget committee member state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester), said he was told the agency is making progress and wanted to know how it intended to “get there.”
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