In an effort to reduce a long backlog of psychiatric patients in emergency rooms, Concord, New Hampshire, will open the state’s first 24-hour mental health treatment center. The new contract with Riverbend Community Mental Health was approved by the facilities Executive Board for $4.4 million.
Behavioral Health Crisis Treatment Center
The new facility will be known as the Behavioral Health Crisis Treatment Center and will be housed in one of Riverbend’s existing buildings at 40 Pleasant Street. The center is being hailed as a way for Concord to move ahead in mental health treatment with a goal of creating a place where those with mental health issues can walk in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s also designed to move mental health cases out of the emergency room. In order to use the facility, patients must be 18 years or older and facing a mental health crisis. The center will offer stabilization and de-escalation services to those who walk in or are diverted by law enforcement, mobile response units and hospitals. Substance abuse treatment will also be available.
New Hampshire Mental Health Statistics
As of December 2017, there had been a steady increase in boarding people with mental health problems in emergency departments throughout New Hampshire. On September 24, 2017, there were 70 people awaiting admission with 72 people awaiting treatment in emergency departments. The number of inpatient beds was declining, but in 2016 and 2017, inpatient capacity had increased from 430 to 458. And the wait-list for beds continued to increase.
“ER Not the Best Place for These Patients”
Riverbend CEO Peter Evers pointed out that the emergency department is not the best place for someone in a psychiatric crisis. In some cases, someone who is undergoing a mental health crisis who is boarded in an emergency room may get worse because that person isn’t getting the treatment he needs.
The new facility is also designed to address issues that have led to a lawsuit by the ACLU. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a 26-year-old man who was admitted to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center after attempting suicide. The hospital staff determined he was a danger to himself or others and held him against his will in the emergency room. State law required that the patient be admitted to a Designated Receiving Facility with a hearing scheduled in front of a judge within three days. But because there is a lengthy waiting list for beds at Designated Receiving Facilities, the patient was detained without a hearing or legal counsel.
The goal is to open up beds specifically for mental health patients so that they receive the treatment they need. Riverbend hopes to have the facility open by April 2019.