Due process problem for mental health patients

Apr 16, 2018

BY: Citizens Count

According to state law, any mental health patient sent involuntarily to the state hospital has a right to a court hearing within three days of admission.

However, overcrowding leaves patients in the emergency room, waiting for days for a bed to open up at the state hospital. Those patients don’t get a hearing until they actually arrive at the state hospital in Concord, leading to the question of whether the system violates their rights to due process.

Last August the state hit a record of over seventy mental health patients waiting in emergency rooms.

Click here to learn more about the issue of state-funded mental health treatment in New Hampshire.

Pilot program fails

Last year four hospitals in the state agreed to a pilot program that would give patients a court hearing in the emergency room.

The pilot program failed for multiple reasons, such as a lack of security and privacy for hearings at the hospitals.

How can the state ensure rights for patients?

Last year Gov. Sununu signed a bill to study the issue of due process for involuntarily admitted patients. That commission issued an interim report in November that suggested the best way to ensure due process for mental health patients was to expand the mental health workforce as well as inpatient beds. If patients don’t have to wait so long to get to the state hospital, they will also get a prompt hearing.

However, some mental health advocates oppose increased hospitalization of mental health patients. They believe that more community-based treatment will better serve mental health patients by preventing the sort of crisis that requires inpatient treatment.

SB 590, a bill currently in the House of Representatives, would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to start work on a behavioral health crisis treatment center and, if funding is available, an additional mobile crisis team and apartments.

How do you think the state should address the backlog of mental health patients in emergency rooms? Share your opinion in the comments below.


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