Sununu Announces $100 Million Mental Health Investment
Mental health and abortion were among the subjects addressed by Gov. Chris Sununu during his weekly COVID-19 press conference on Thursday.
Sununu announced the state will invest up to $100 million in state and federal funds to go toward mobile crisis teams, 60 new transitional housing beds and 30 new emergency beds to be placed throughout the state.
Other new programs, such as a new forensic hospital, are still in the planning stages.
New private providers will be allowed to come into the state and new rules will be created for licensing, treatment and discharge.
"This really is the most transformative action on mental health the state has ever taken and it’s happening very, very, rapidly. So we’re going to keep our heads down and nose to the grindstone, as they say, and keep working it," Sununu said.
When asked about what will be done to help preteens and teens affected by the pandemic, Sununu said that kids have endured a lot.
One measure to help kids was to make sure that schools were fully open in April for all students.
They are also working on summer programs at the state level.
"We don’t want to wait until September and say, 'Well, now we’re going to assess the kids, now we’ll figure out where we are right.' We want to hit the ground running in September and so by allowing and pushing it to make sure that schools opened up the right way, getting eyes on the kids, that has been absolutely vital in terms of getting a proper assessment of where we are," Sununu said.
Sununu doesn't want to "punish" kids who may have fallen behind by having them attend summer school and supports the approach taken by state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut by reaching out to kids in summer camp with peer support and fun activities.
The state is also making sure kids are treated the right way in the right setting appropriate for children.
"How you deal with mental health issues or anxiety and crisis issues with a child
is so very different than with an adult and you have to have that right expertise," Sununu said.
The governor said his top goal is creating a system that parents can turn to even if their child is experiencing a mental health issue.
"It’s about that mom. It’s about that dad that sees their kid in crisis and says, 'I know what to do. I’ve never dealt with this before, but I know there’s a system there that can provide those supports for my kid,'" Sununu said.
Sununu also clarified that businesses which received COVID-19 relief money from the state Main Street relief program to cover projected losses during the pandemic will have to repay the money if they did not have a loss. It initially looked like the federal government would allow businesses to keep the money.
"Unfortunately, the federal government is not allowing us to do that," Sununu said.
His office will create the Office of Relief and Recovery that will allow businesses to deduct COVID-19 expenses to offset what they owe. The expenses could include prorated rents, mortgage payments, reopening costs, air filtration system improvements, increased workforce training for safety and the installation of physical safety measures.
Sununu also said he remains pro-choice on abortion but would support a measure in the budget that would prohibit late-term abortions. He said 43 other states including "liberal" states like Massachusetts and New York already have similar provisions.
Don't look for New Hampshire to offer incentive programs like big money lottery games to entice those hesitant about taking the COVID-19 vaccination. Sununu said states that are trying to catch up with their vaccination numbers need to do it, but New Hampshire, along with Maine and Massachusetts, have an excess of vaccine they are willing to share with Canada to help open the border and bring tourism back.
"We’re waiting to hear from the President. We have directly asked him, can we give our vaccine to Canada? Will that help open the border? We’re more than happy to do it. They can come here and get it. I’ll ship it there. Whatever it takes to open. That border is very, very important," Sununu said. "I know Washington isn’t on board with Canada, but it’s a huge part, not just for New Hampshire, but for all the northern states in New England as a whole," Sununu said.