The Justice Department announced today that the United States and a coalition of mental health advocacy organizations have entered into a comprehensive settlement agreement with the state of New Hampshire that will transform New Hampshire’s mental health system by significantly expanding and enhancing mental health service capacity in integrated community settings.
The settlement agreement will provide people with serious mental illness in New Hampshire with robust community alternatives that will reduce or eliminate the need for hospitalization. Individuals who receive expanded services in New Hampshire will have fewer visits to emergency rooms and will avoid unnecessary institutionalization at state mental health facilities, including New Hampshire Hospital and the Glencliff Home.
“Today’s agreement realizes the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act for people with serious mental illness in New Hampshire,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. “It will better ensure that effective community services will get to the people most in need when and where they need services – in their homes and communities. These services will help people with mental illness avoid and respond to crises without escalating them and without giving up their important connections to their communities. This agreement is also a testament to the vision and leadership of Governor Maggie Hassan and Attorney General Joe Foster.”
“The settlement of this landmark federal civil rights lawsuit marks a major step forward in New Hampshire’s treatment of one of its most vulnerable populations – those who suffer from mental illness,” said U.S. Attorney John P. Kacavas for the District of New Hampshire. “I commend the progressive leadership of Governor Hassan and New Hampshire Attorney General Joe Foster and their respective staffs, without whose efforts and will this achievement would not have been possible.”
The agreement requires the state to create and expand services over the next six years. The state will: create new mobile crisis teams and new community crisis apartments in Manchester, Concord and Nashua; expand and enhance Assertive Community Treatment team services, which will provide state-wide coverage for at least 1,500 people; add hundreds of new supported housing units and work to create community alternatives for people with complex health care needs; and expand effective supported employment services for hundreds of people. An independent expert reviewer will evaluate the state’s compliance with the agreement and will issue public reports on the state’s ongoing implementation efforts.
The settlement resolves outstanding issues in a 2012 federal class action lawsuit brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – Amanda D. v. Hassan; United States v. New Hampshire. The ADA and the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Olmstead v. L.C. affords individuals with disabilities the right to receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, and today’s agreement will help ensure that adults with serious mental illness in New Hampshire can exercise that right.
In recent years, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has entered into a number of statewide ADA/Olmstead settlements, including comprehensive agreements with Georgia, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, and now New Hampshire, that give thousands of persons with disabilities new and meaningful opportunities to live in and be active members of their communities – outside of segregated institutional settings. Visit www.ada.gov/olmstead to learn more about these settlement agreements, the Olmstead decision, the ADA, and other laws enforced by the Civil Rights Division.
The parties’ proposed class action settlement agreement must still be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Steven J. McAuliffe, who is presiding over the lawsuit. In September 2013, the Court certified a class of plaintiffs that includes all persons with serious mental illness who are unnecessarily institutionalized in NHH or Glencliff or who are at serious risk of unnecessary institutionalization in these facilities. The parties have proposed that appropriate notice of the settlement be provided to class members, that they be able to submit concerns or comments to the proposed settlement by the end of January 2014, and that the Court schedule a fairness hearing on or after Feb. 17, 2014.
The New Hampshire settlement agreement was realized due to the efforts of the following attorneys in the Special Litigation Section: Deputy Chief Judy C. Preston and Trial Attorneys Richard J. Farano, Deena S. Fox, Katherine V. Houston and Alexandra L. Shandell. In addition, the Civil Rights Division received ongoing support and assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Farley for the District of New Hampshire.