Cloudy
41°
Cloudy
Hi 51° | Lo 30°

New Hampshire Hospital to open 12 new beds this week

  • Health facility cleaners Melissa Gagnon and Travis Josselyn clean items in the J2 wing of the New Hampshire Hospital in Concord on Friday, June 7, 2013. The wing, which has a new sprinkler system, will reopen for patients on Monday, June 10, 2013. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Health facility cleaners Melissa Gagnon and Travis Josselyn clean items in the J2 wing of the New Hampshire Hospital in Concord on Friday, June 7, 2013. The wing, which has a new sprinkler system, will reopen for patients on Monday, June 10, 2013.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • A common room in the New Hampshire Hospital's remodeled J3 wing is seen on Friday, June 7, 2013. The hospital will open new beds on Monday, June 10, 2013. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    A common room in the New Hampshire Hospital's remodeled J3 wing is seen on Friday, June 7, 2013. The hospital will open new beds on Monday, June 10, 2013.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • Health facility cleaners Melissa Gagnon and Travis Josselyn clean items in the J2 wing of the New Hampshire Hospital in Concord on Friday, June 7, 2013. The wing, which has a new sprinkler system, will reopen for patients on Monday, June 10, 2013. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Health facility cleaners Melissa Gagnon and Travis Josselyn clean items in the J2 wing of the New Hampshire Hospital in Concord on Friday, June 7, 2013. The wing, which has a new sprinkler system, will reopen for patients on Monday, June 10, 2013.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • A common room in the New Hampshire Hospital's remodeled J3 wing is seen on Friday, June 7, 2013. The hospital will open new beds on Monday, June 10, 2013. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    A common room in the New Hampshire Hospital's remodeled J3 wing is seen on Friday, June 7, 2013. The hospital will open new beds on Monday, June 10, 2013.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • A shower facility in the New Hampshire Hospital's remodeled J3 wing is seen on Friday, June 7, 2013. The new shower heads are safe for patients in acute psychiatric distress. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    A shower facility in the New Hampshire Hospital's remodeled J3 wing is seen on Friday, June 7, 2013. The new shower heads are safe for patients in acute psychiatric distress.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • A patient's bedside table in the New Hampshire Hospital's remodeled J3 wing is seen on Friday, June 7, 2013. The hospital is opening new beds on Monday, June 10, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    A patient's bedside table in the New Hampshire Hospital's remodeled J3 wing is seen on Friday, June 7, 2013. The hospital is opening new beds on Monday, June 10, 2013.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • Health facility cleaners Melissa Gagnon and Travis Josselyn clean items in the J2 wing of the New Hampshire Hospital in Concord on Friday, June 7, 2013. The wing, which has a new sprinkler system, will reopen for patients on Monday, June 10, 2013. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • A common room in the New Hampshire Hospital's remodeled J3 wing is seen on Friday, June 7, 2013. The hospital will open new beds on Monday, June 10, 2013. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • Health facility cleaners Melissa Gagnon and Travis Josselyn clean items in the J2 wing of the New Hampshire Hospital in Concord on Friday, June 7, 2013. The wing, which has a new sprinkler system, will reopen for patients on Monday, June 10, 2013. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • A common room in the New Hampshire Hospital's remodeled J3 wing is seen on Friday, June 7, 2013. The hospital will open new beds on Monday, June 10, 2013. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • A shower facility in the New Hampshire Hospital's remodeled J3 wing is seen on Friday, June 7, 2013. The new shower heads are safe for patients in acute psychiatric distress. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • A patient's bedside table in the New Hampshire Hospital's remodeled J3 wing is seen on Friday, June 7, 2013. The hospital is opening new beds on Monday, June 10, 2013.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

Concord — In the first expansion of mental health care services in the state in years, 12 new beds at New Hampshire Hospital will be available for patients starting this week.

The new capacity brings the available beds at the state hospital in Concord to 142; in 2010, the state hospital had more than 250 beds available for patients in psychiatric distress.

The beds are in what was once called I-unit and is now a third wing in the J-unit, designated for adults over 55 or who need significant medical attention in addition to mental health care.

I-unit had been closed for two years due to budget cuts, before the renovation work began this spring.

“We realized we had patients that fit that description through the building, so by increasing this area, we were able to relieve those beds in the rest of the hospital,” said Rosemary Costanzo, the nurse coordinator for the hospital, on a tour Friday of the new wing.

New and upgraded safety features and specially trained staff also now allow the state hospital to use J-unit as a direct admission unit. Previously, the unit could only take patients from other wings who had been assessed and determined not to be an immediate risk to themselves.

Direct admission units are a patient’s first stop at the hospital when they are admitted from a local emergency room. It can take several days for a patient to be evaluated and transferred from the admission unit to another area of the hospital that may be more appropriate for their care, Costanzo said.

Staff on J-unit have been training this spring to perform those initial evaluations, she said.

The safety features — bathroom and bedroom equipment specifically designed to eliminate self-harm risks — “are even more important now because we don’t know enough about the patients when they first arrive” to know if they are a risk to themselves, Costanzo said.

The bathrooms on J-3, for example, have showers with heads that don’t protrude from the walls, and toilets and sinks without accessible pipes. The beds have railings with no gaps, and the light fixtures have been replaced and are now inaccessible by patients.

The renovation work began in March; six weeks later, patients moved in. However, construction to install sprinklers in another wing of J-unit meant there was no actual increase in available beds until this week, said Philip Wright, the hospital’s director of support services.

More renovations to fix the sprinkler system that were scheduled to take until October will be done next month, Wright said. While that work won’t add to the number of available beds, its completion will allow juvenile patients to have private rooms, he said.

These renovations were not part of the $28 million increase for mental health care funding over the next two years that Gov. Maggie Hassan proposed in her budget address in February.

If the Legislature approves Hassan’s plans – and so far both chambers have – the state could see even more mental health care capacity by fall: new space at Franklin Regional Hospital for people in crisis and waiting for a state hospital bed; more community housing for people who need mental health assistance; and additional treatment teams across the state.

Community mental health care providers continue to be cautious in their optimism.

Louis Josephson, CEO of Riverbend Community Mental Health in Concord, pointed to the continued pressure on the system for care for children. On Friday afternoon, he said, two children, one 11 and the other 12, waited in Concord Hospital for a space where they could get care.

Jay Couture, president of the state Community Behavioral Health Association, said she does expect the 12 new beds at the hospital to help, but “it’s not the full solution,” she said.

“It is the beginning of a solution that we’ve been waiting for and that consumers have been waiting for.”