For Immediate Release
December 19, 2013
Anne M. Edwards, Associate Attorney General
Attorney General Joseph A. Foster announced today that the New Hampshire Department of Justice has entered into a comprehensive settlement agreement, subject to legislative appropriations, of the class action lawsuit Amanda D. v. Hassan, which has been brought by several plaintiffs, represented by counsel including the Disability Rights Center, and the U.S. Department of Justice against the State of New Hampshire on behalf of a class of New Hampshire residents with serious mental illness who claim that New Hampshire fails to provide services to qualified individuals with mental illness in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This suit was brought in federal court soon after the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report, in April 2011, on the State of New Hampshire's mental health system finding that the State failed to comply with important aspects of the ADA and recommending that the State correct identified deficiencies to fulfill its commitment to individuals with mental illness. The United States District Court certified the plaintiffs as a class on September 13, 2013, including all individuals with serious mental illness who are unnecessarily institutionalized in New Hampshire Hospital or Glencliff Nursing Home or who are at serious risk of unnecessary institutionalization in hospitals, emergency rooms or prisons.
"The first priority in this case for the New Hampshire Department of Justice has been to ensure that the State of New Hampshire is able to develop its own plan for community mental health services that best meets the needs of its residents," Attorney General Foster said. "This settlement agreement, developed in conjunction with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, enhances the State's mental health services to address the concerns of the plaintiffs and protects taxpayers from far greater potential liabilities. This settlement was only made possible by the leadership of Governor Maggie Hassan and the bipartisan legislative leadership in re-investing in improving the State's mental health care system. That demonstrated commitment brought the parties to the table and made them willing to talk to the State about New Hampshire-based solutions, as opposed to seeking federal court mandates."
Under the Settlement Agreement, the Legislature's fiscal authority is preserved as it determines appropriations for the services included in the Agreement. If the Legislature does not appropriate funds for the services, plaintiffs have reserved the ability to reinstitute the court case.
Under the settlement, over the next four years, New Hampshire will:
Initial estimates from the Department of Health and Human Services are that implementing the Settlement Agreement would require an additional $6 million from the State's General Fund in the current biennium for expanded mental health services, followed by $23.7 million in General Funds for the FY16/17 biennium. Under the terms of the Agreement, the State also agrees to pay $2.4 million for plaintiffs' legal expenses.
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