New statewide mental health hotline to go live in January

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Granite Staters in the midst of a mental health crisis will be able to call a single number statewide to be connected to mental health and addiction care starting in January.

In June, the executive board approved a $ 9 million contract with Beacon Health Options to centralize access to behavioral health care and create what the state has dubbed a “no-wrong approach.”

Julianne Carbin, director of the State Bureau of Mental Health Services, said each of the ten community mental health centers in the state currently has its own hotline, which can be confusing for people. families and people who try to ask for help.

“These artificial boundaries that we have based on regions for our community mental health centers sort of dissolve under this model,” she said.

The exact number is not yet established, the new hotline is intended to receive calls, allow an assessment of the caller’s needs, then put this person in touch with resources or send the nearest mobile crisis unit. Units are often made up of a clinician and a “peer support specialist,” a person recovering from their own mental illness.

Beacon Health Options, a Boston-based nonprofit, has set up similar hotlines in Massachusetts, Georgia, and Washington state.

Hotline employees – who are either trained intake specialists, peer specialists or licensed clinicians – will answer a wide range of calls from people struggling with substance abuse, suicidal thoughts or psychosis, said Wendy Farmer, head of the National Beacon Crisis.

“A crisis is really self-defined by an individual or a family,” she said. “Our goal is not to define that, but we will listen when the call comes in and find the most appropriate resource at that time.”

In addition to facilitating access to care, state officials expect the hotline to reduce unnecessary trips to emergency rooms for psychiatric care. For many years, New Hampshire has had many more patients seeking mental health care than there are inpatient beds available at the New Hampshire Hospital. As a result, patients often stay in hospital emergency rooms while they wait for an available bed.

The NH Department of Health and Human Services came under pressure to have patients promptly evacuated from emergency rooms after the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in May that psychiatric patients involuntarily detained in wards. emergency services were to be given the opportunity to challenge their detention within three days of their arrival.

Often, people found to be in crisis have to wait days or weeks in emergency rooms for an open bed in a psychiatric facility without having the opportunity to challenge their compulsory admission.

In states where a similar hotline is already in place, Farmer said a phone call is the only intervention needed about 75% of the time.

“What someone needs is just a warm listener who helps them discuss the issue at hand and connect them with resources,” she said.

Projections from a progress report on the state’s 10-year mental health plan show that 80% of crisis calls are expected to be resolvable over the phone, while most of the remaining calls will require a mobile crisis team. The end result, the report predicts, will be less reliance on emergency rooms, prisons and inpatient facilities for mental health care.

It will take some outreach and publicity in the community to alert people that they can call the hotline instead of dialing 911. Farmer said this is often the default response when someone is in crisis. However, this number does not always put people in touch with the best resources to manage psychiatric emergencies.

“I think we’ve tried in most communities to build a behavioral health crisis into the system designed to respond to medical emergencies and it’s a lag. It doesn’t fit well,” Farmer said.

Carbin said the state is contacting local law enforcement so they can direct people to the hotline, print flyers and hold focus groups to determine how best to publicize the new 1-800 number. in communities.

The state’s ten-digit crisis number will change to a three-digit number in July, when federal law requires all states to establish an easy-to-dial mental health and suicide prevention hotline.

Carbin said the state has beefed up staff in mobile crisis units to ensure they can handle the estimated 30,000 callers they expect to hear over the three-year contract period.


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