CONCORD, N.H. – This morning, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a historic ruling agreeing that people being involuntarily detained based on the belief that they are experiencing a mental health crisis must be afforded timely due process. To this day, people are being held in hospital emergency rooms throughout New Hampshire without timely due process, appointed counsel, or the opportunity to contest their detention. This practice is known as “psychiatric boarding.”
This decision follows a federal class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU of New Hampshire on behalf of those being detained without timely due process. The ACLU of New Hampshire filed an amicus brief before the New Hampshire Supreme Court on behalf of the class it represents.
Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, said:
“Today’s historic decision is a major victory for mental health advocacy: it recognizes that those being boarded in hospital emergency rooms are human beings entitled to prompt due process.
“For far too long, a lack of community-based mental health treatment options has meant some people, including our clients, have been held without probable cause hearings for weeks in emergency rooms, without access to a state-appointed lawyer or an opportunity to timely contest their detention. It also means they have often been unable to return home to their families or jobs.
“After over two years of litigation in federal court, we are pleased that the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with us that the Department of Health and Human Services ‘has a duty mandated by statute to provide for probable cause hearings within three days of when an involuntary emergency certificate is completed.’ It is our hope that the Commissioner will begin work immediately to comply with this legal duty.”
More information on this case is available here: https://www.aclu-nh.org/en/cases/john-doe-v-state-new-hampshire-emergency-room-boarding-without-due-process