CONCORD - New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said the state is on the right track toward improving its mental health services after DHHS last week released what he called a "road map" toward providing critical service to Granite Staters suffering from such issues.
The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services unveiled its newly formed 10-Year Mental Health Plan on Wednesday.
The Plan provides innovative models to meet the evolving needs of individuals and families and the increasing complexity of New Hampshire's mental health system. It is the culmination of a robust stakeholder engagement process that included input from hundreds of interested parties through focus groups, workgroups, public sessions, and written comments.
"Over the past two years, we have made significant strides to rebuild New Hampshire's mental health system," Gov. Sununu said. "Let's be clear: more work must be done to improve our mental health system. Through this new 10 Year Mental Health Plan, we are establishing a road map for the next decade that will make New Hampshire's mental health system the gold standard for the rest of the nation. I look forward to acting on several of the action items contained in this plan in the next state budget. Our efforts to reform the mental health system will not happen overnight, though it is critically important that we take immediate action to craft a better solution. I thank the Department, Commissioner Meyers and stakeholders for their hard work in helping to craft this plan."
It is important to note that, unlike the previous 10-Year Plan issued in 2008, this Plan takes a comprehensive approach to essential services and supports across the life span. The 2008 Plan and the Community Mental Health Agreement (CHMA), signed in 2014, only took into account the needs of adults, leaving out children. The Plan now includes child-focused strategies and recommendations.
"The Department has taken the work that came from the public process in shaping its final recommendations," said DHHS Commissioner Jeffrey A. Meyers. "The Plan is a product of the robust public process. In putting it forward, we fully anticipate that the Plan will help inform the Governor and the Legislature in further strengthening the state's mental health system in the coming legislative session."
The Plan envisions a statewide mental health system that provides access to a full continuum of care, including community education and engagement; prevention and early intervention services; and outpatient, inpatient and crisis support and services. In an effort to realize this vision, the Plan includes multiple alternatives, from expanded mobile crisis services and incentives to increase psychiatric bed capacity, to emergency department reforms that eliminate long wait times for psychiatric hospitalizations; supported transitions between each step in the continuum of care to fill any gaps in services for people transitioning to and from higher levels of mental health care; and an infusion of peer supports to help people with a mental illness navigate their way through the system.
Among the elements included in the plan to establish new pathways to care are eliminating barriers to access; focusing on special populations such as children, older adults and justice-involved individuals; and greater integration of mental health care and primary care. Recommendations also include higher Medicaid rates for mental health services, renewed and intensified efforts to address suicide prevention, enhanced and integrated regional delivery of mental health services, increased investments in community services and housing supports, streamlined administrative requirements for providers, and quarterly reporting on implementation of the Plan.
The Plan's recommendations highlight stakeholder input and include action steps on how the Department and stakeholders will implement those recommendations, funding benchmarks, and potential legal and regulatory changes.