Today, Governor Sununu released his budget and committed significant funding that would provide due process to individuals who are being boarded in hospital emergency rooms. As the Governor’s budget summary states: “[T]his budget allocates funds to develop interim measures to alleviate the waitlist crisis. This budget includes … $1 million in one-time funding to assist hospitals with the development of an interim mechanism to issues associated with individuals being held in emergency rooms.” In November 2018, the ACLU-NH filed a lawsuit against the State of New Hampshire challenging its systemic practice of involuntarily detaining people who may be experiencing mental health crises in hospital emergency rooms without providing them any due process, appointed counsel, or opportunity to contest their detention.
Gilles Bissonnette, the ACLU of New Hampshire’s Legal Director, has the following statement concerning this significant development:
“We commend the Governor for committing resources to end the due process crisis that exists in hospital emergency rooms. People who are in hospital emergency departments because of a mental health crisis should not be deprived of their liberty without due process. They are entitled to a prompt hearing regardless of the fact that they are confined in an emergency room rather than the state hospital. Providing hearings for people boarded in emergency rooms because of a mental health crisis will ensure that only those who are truly dangerous to themselves or others remain confined. With this commitment and leadership from the Governor, our hope is that the hospitals, given that they are holding the keys to these boarded patients, will work with advocates and the executive branch to ensure that patients receive the due process they deserve.
"As to the long term issue of how to resolve the waitlist at New Hampshire Hospital, the ACLU-NH continues to believe that the remedy is increased community-based outpatient services for crisis prevention, including increased funding for mobile crisis teams to help divert individuals away from hospital emergency rooms. That said, we can—and must—walk and chew gum at the same time. We can address the broader problem of emergency room boarding while simultaneously addressing the due process issue that emergency room boarding creates.”