Judge: Psychiatric patients can’t be held in emergency rooms

Feb 28, 2023, 12:02 PM | Updated: 12:09 pm

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The clock is ticking for New Hampshire to stop the involuntary holding of psychiatric patients in emergency rooms after a federal judge declared the state’s practice unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Landya McCafferty ruled Thursday that the state is violating the rights of hospitals by seizing their property. She declined to issue an order halting the practice, however. Instead, she gave the state and hospitals a month to submit proposed orders or a timeline for how they would develop an order together.

“The record is clear; the Commissioner’s boarding practice commandeers space, staff and resources in the Hospitals’ emergency departments that is needed for other patients and services,” McCafferty wrote.

New Hampshire has long struggled with a mental health system that advocates say is overburdened at every stage, from initiation of treatment to re-entry into the community. Emergency room boarding, with people in crisis waiting days or weeks for treatment, has become a flashpoint and focus of multiple lawsuits.

The New Hampshire chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness called the ruling an opportunity to expand on progress made in recent years after lawmakers increased funding for mobile crisis teams, designated receiving beds for patients in mental health crises and supported housing.

“NAMI NH has long held that the problem of emergency department boarding should not be considered in a vacuum,” the group said in a statement. “It is directly related to the long-term failure of the State, hospitals, and the health care system generally, to develop a comprehensive system of community-based services for people with serious mental illnesses.”

A spokesman for the attorney general’s office, which represents the state in court, said officials are reviewing the order and will respond in court.

New Hampshire Hospital Association President Steve Ahnen said the hospitals were pleased with the “clear and compelling order.”

“This case has always been about ensuring patients in acute psychiatric crisis are able receive the care they need immediately and in a facility specially designed for that purpose,” he said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Haitian migrant Gerson Solay, 28, carries his daughter, Bianca, as he and his family cross into Can...
Associated Press

US, Canada to end loophole that allows asylum-seekers to move between countries

President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday announced a plan to close a loophole to an immigration agreement.
3 days ago
Expert skateboarder Di'Orr Greenwood, an artist born and raised in the Navajo Nation in Arizona and...
Associated Press

Indigenous skateboard art featured on new stamps unveiled at Phoenix skate park

The Postal Service unveiled the “Art of the Skateboard" stamps at a Phoenix skate park, featuring designs from Indigenous artists.
3 days ago
(Facebook Photo/City of San Luis, Arizona)...
Associated Press

San Luis authorities receive complaints about 911 calls going across border

Authorities in San Luis say they are receiving more complaints about 911 calls mistakenly going across the border.
9 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Daylight saving time begins in most of US this weekend

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
17 days ago
Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamo...
Associated Press

How the 4 abducted Americans in Mexico were located

The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four abducted Americans were held described armed men and blindfolds.
17 days ago
Tom Brundy points to a newly built irrigation canal on one of the fields at his farm Tuesday, Feb. ...
Associated Press

Southwest farmers reluctant to idle farmland to save water

There is a growing sense that fallowing will have to be part of the solution to the increasingly desperate drought in the West.
24 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Judge: Psychiatric patients can’t be held in emergency rooms