The Department of Justice has completed an investigation of New Hampshire’s mental health system, sending a letter to the state attorney general April 7 charging the state with failing to provide reasonable accommodations for people with mental illnesses to live in their homes and communities.
“Systemic failures in the State’s system place qualified individual with disabilities at risk of unnecessary institutionalization now and going forward,” the letter stated.
The investigation confirmed many of the state’s own findings that sparked the creation of a 10-year plan in 2008 to transfer individuals with disabilities out of the state’s two institutions and into more integrated settings. However, the letter disagreed with the state’s assertion it is making progress, highlighting that the state has allocated no new money for additional beds in community living options.
The budget recently passed by the state House of Representatives would save $6.7 million by reducing the number of adults eligible for mental health services and $5.7 million by changing eligibility rules for children, according to an article in the Boston Globe. As a result, the state’s 10 community mental health centers would eliminate treatment for 3,500 children and more than 4,000 adults.
New Hampshire Governor John Lynch has previously proposed closing the two institutions. However, this step was not part of the House of Representatives budget plan, which would further reduce options for individuals looking to move out of the institutions, according to an article in the Concord Monitor.
The letter disputes the state’s contention that its progress is limited by its budget, noting that it costs the state on average $287,000 per year to keep an individual in the state mental hospital and $44,000 on average to keep an individual in a community setting.
The Disability Rights Center and other advocacy groups, have threatened to file a lawsuit against the state for violating the integration mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead decision, which prohibits unnecessary institutionalization, pending the federal investigation. The state’s house and human services commissioner responded April 13 that New Hampshire is making progress on its 10-year plan.
The Disability Rights Center is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.