Fix for NH psychiatric bed shortage is way overdue
Sept. 28 — To the Editor:
Two recent articles in Foster's reported on the status of New Hampshire's mental health program. As of Sept. 23, it was noted that 36 adults were being housed in local hospital Emergency Rooms waiting for inpatient psychiatric care in a state facility. That was in addition to two people being held in a correctional facility, and 14 children on a waitlist for in-patient treatment.
One article stated that "last year Gov. Sununu directed DHHS to take various steps to improve the state's mental health system." In partial response there is a current proposal to apply $15 million in federal (not State) funds toward the construction of a new "mental health facility". If this plan is approved the program could be "up and running" some time in 2024. But while this plan is in the works the State also announced that 48 of 184 beds at the NH State Hospital had been closed "due to the department's inability to compete with wages" and signing bonuses being offered by private hospitals.
Here's the real story regarding mental health programs in NH. This is not a new problem. Absence of available beds at NH Hospital and lack of community-based facilities has been a long-standing issue. And while Sununu may have "directed" the Department of Health and Human Services to improve the program in 2021 it's important to remember that he was first elected in 2017 and the problem has been constant for that entire time. Having 50 or more individuals unable to receive proper treatment places an intolerable burden on them, their families, and the local hospitals and law enforcement that have been facing the problem for years.
The answer, I believe, is this: it is the failure of Sununu and other Republican leaders, over a long period of time, to step up and adopt legislation that will properly fund necessary programs at a State level, not waiting for or relying on federal money. This is a State responsibility. These are NH citizens. For them, their families, and the local communities trying to meet the demand, there is no "New Hampshire Advantage" in the State's refusal to fully fund adequate services.
The need is now. The proper response is way overdue. Reopen the beds at NH Hospital. Pay whatever is needed to provide adequate staffing. For our lawmakers in Concord this is a human and moral obligation that must be met. Now.
Why I support Katherine Harake for Executive Council
Sept. 30 — To the Editor:
On Sept. 22, I was part of an educational forum held at the Portsmouth Public Library and sponsored by the League of Women Voters and South Church. The topic was the NH Executive Council and why you should vote for that office.
It was a non-partisan event featuring UNH Political Science professor Dante Scala, former state Rep. Rich DiPentima and both candidates for District 3 were invited, although only Katherine Harake was able to attend. The forum was held because around 20% of voters skip voting for the Executive Council because they have no idea what they do. We learned that they are as influential and important as the Governor! Most of the money NH has to spend comes not from taxes, but from the Federal Government and the EC has power over whether that grant money is accepted. They also approve appointments like the Commissioner of Education.
What impressed me about Katherine Harake was her commitment to viewing the job not from a party viewpoint, but as a businessperson and parent considering what will benefit the citizens of New Hampshire. I'm completely fed up with elected officials who only want to hang on to power without caring what they can do for us. Harake wants to serve the public and to be as available and open as possible. She has my vote!
Send a letter to the editor: Email to firstname.lastname@example.org
'Sextortion – The hidden pandemic' educates public on threats to children
Sept. 29 — To the Editor:
Last evening, I attended an information forum and movie screening on the growing plague of internet crime against children. The documentary "Sextortion – The hidden pandemic" was an extremely effective tool for bringing this into mainstream media and public attention. This also made clear the overwhelming onslaught of local and international groups luring our children through their constant reliance on phones and computers. Major credit goes to state Rep. Debra Altschiller, D-Stratham, for getting this issue the attention it needs. Credit to her for promoting the public viewing of this documentary and the question-and-answer follow-up with representatives from the New Hampshire Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the state Department of Homeland Security.
Editor's note: New Hampshire state Rep. Debra Altschiller, D-Stratham, is the wife of Howard Altschiller, Seacoast Media Group's executive editor.
Sununu, Edelblut harming education, taxpayers, vote Sherman for governor
Oct. 1 — To the Editor:
Governor Sununu prides himself on being a stalwart against raising taxes. But so far he’s played a key role in the ever increasing property taxes in the state.
Foremost is his support of public funding for private schooling. His appointee as education commissioner, Frank Edelblut has mirrored extremist right-wing tactics by implementing the horribly misnamed Education Freedom Accounts. This funding plan started at $400,000, but has exploded to an estimated $8-9 million.
Guess where the money will come from? That’s right, our property taxes.
Sununu, Edelblut, and the Republican-controlled state legislature will be substantially increasing the state property tax in the coming fiscal year to fund this constitutionally questionable plan. They will try to confuse taxpayers by trumpeting their so-called property tax relief program. This poorly publicized plot had severe limitations. The application time period was very brief and the average payout to the NH taxpayers who completed the burdensome paperwork was only $160, according to the NH Fiscal Policy Institute. As of this writing, it has not been extended.
On the other side of the ledger, Sununu and the GOP killed a Democratic Party proposal to actually help property taxpayers by having the state pay 7.5% of the retirement costs for municipal, school, and county employees. The state used to pay up to 40% of this cost, but shifted the burden to counties and municipalities.
The Democratic plan was to help reduce local taxes by having the state return to its past practice of helping defray the cost to local taxpayers. The state has access to a much wider revenue pool than counties and municipalities. Last year, the 7.5% funding would have used $28 million of the state’s estimated $400 million surplus to reduce property taxes. Thanks to the Republicans, this did not happen.
I encourage other property taxpayers to join me in rejecting Sununu, Edelblut, and the extremist Republicans in the coming election. Vote for Dr. Tom Sherman instead.
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Fix for NH psychiatric bed shortage is way overdue: Letters