Democrats of the New Hampshire community recently accused Gov. Chris Sununu of the Republicans of blocking progress on multiple mental health care strategies on Tuesday, while his office in defense, responded by saying that the state’s challenges can be met without the business tax increases included in the budget he vetoed.
Gov. Chris turned down a bill last month that would have improved Medicaid reimbursement rates for mental health care providers in part because he said such funding should be in the state budget. A few weeks later, he dismissed the entire two-year, $13 billion budget, which had included $60 million for across-the-board rate increases for Medicaid providers, plus additional funding to address the growing problem of psychiatric patients waiting in emergency rooms and to improve services for children with behavioral health challenges. His main objection was the inclusion of an overlay of already planned business tax cuts.
“The governor’s veto and the eventual delays in the budget have a direct impact on the mental health of New Hampshire citizens,” Rep. Mary Jane Wallner said Tuesday. “We urge him to join us now in reaching an agreement on the budget, recognizing that we simply cannot afford more tax cuts for large corporations at the expense and wellbeing of the people of New Hampshire.”
Mrs. Wallner joined fellow Concord Democrat Sen. Dan Feltes at a news conference at Riverbend Community Health, where CEO Peter Evers said he had been encouraged by the bipartisan push over the last six months to provide much-needed funding for mental health services.
“We’ve hit a stop here,” Evers said. “We need to reach a consensus on this so that we can provide the services that we need to the vulnerable populace of this state.”
“This includes the 10 patients at Concord Hospital’s emergency department on Tuesday waiting for psychiatric inpatient beds to open up,” he said.
“That’s someone’s mother, dad, and children who have not been able to attain a much needed standard care that they need,” Evers said. “That’s not something that can be accepted by the people of this state, and we need to move on from that.”
Sununu’s office responded that he had backed more mental health programs than any governor in 25 years, including signing legislation last year that funded mobile crisis teams, approved receiving beds for patients in mental health crises and approved housing for those leaving the state mental health hospital. His proposed budget included more facilities than what Democrats were demanding, which is providing a 60-bed safe psychiatric facility to serve people who are now housed at the state prison even though they haven’t been charged with crimes. The budget passed by the Legislature scaled that back to 25 beds.
A consensus plan, Mr. Gov. outlined last month included the funding Democrats sought for addressing the emergency room boarding crisis and the comprehensive system of care for children’s behavioral health, but only $30 million for Medicaid provider rate increases.
William Kellogg is a veteran writer who’s covered the subject of the intersection of technology, health and mental wellness for nearly two decades.