By Dennis Mackay / For the Monitor

May 26, 2012

In recent months numerous articles have been written regarding the fragile state of the mental health system in New Hampshire. While this attention and concern is appreciated by mental health consumers, their families and the provider community, the intensity and strain on the system continues to grow. The larger and more urgent question is whether the system will - or, more pessimistically, when will it - reach a breaking point.

It is unfortunately commonplace on a Friday afternoon for the directors of the state's 10 nonprofit community mental health centers, of which I am one, to be notified by New Hampshire Hospital, the state psychiatric facility in Concord, that there are no beds available for an admission and that there will be no admissions over the weekend.

This means that an individual in crisis and in need of psychiatric inpatient care will need to remain in the community. Frequently, this means he or she will remain in the local hospital. Our community hospitals do a remarkable job in trying to support individuals in a mental health crisis, but they do not have the expertise or resources to treat these individuals. As a result these patients do not receive the necessary mental health treatment at the time when they are most in need. The patients I am referring to may be your family member, a friend or someone you know in the community struggling with severe depression; they may be acutely suicidal or they may be grappling with frightening thoughts that distort the world around them.

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