Personal testimony and emotional pleas as state lawmakers hold public hearing on budget
DERRY — State representatives heard emotional pleas to increase funding for addiction recovery efforts, mental health facilities, and services for the disabled, as they held a public hearing on the state’s next biennial budget.
The hearing, held at a packed Derry Town Hall, was one of two state House Finance Committee members were holding on Monday evening. The other public hearing was held in Plymouth.
The speakers, many of which told personal stories of hardship and struggle involving family members, addressed the lawmakers one after another, in testimony that went on well into the evening.
Boxer Charles ‘Chucky’ Rosa of Seabrook told of losing “my two oldest sons, Dominic and Vincent, to accidental drug overdoses. And I almost lost a third son.”
Rosa described how he spends his days doing prevention presentations and workshops at local schools, and also provides assistance to those in financial need as they come out of detox. Rosa pushed for an increase in the state’s alcohol and drug treatment fund to 5%, saying it “will help sustain programs that I do that are not funded right now. I’m hoping now that we can get some help with that because I can tell you first hand that they work.”
In his budget address last month, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu called for doubling the fund, which helps pay for the state’s efforts in battling the heroin and opioid epidemic, from the current 1.7%, to 3.4%. State law allows for the fund to receive up to 5% of revenues from the state’s Liquor Commission.
Also pushing for the fund to receive the full 5% was Carol Bowden of Derry, chair of the Derry Friendship Center, a non-profit community organization that provides “a safe and supportive environment” for those in recovery.
“My goal here today is to hopefully have” lawmakers “support the 3.4% but please increase it to 5%,” she pleaded.
A couple of people highlighted the lack of beds across the state in their testimony, which they said results in patients being kept in hospital emergency rooms for days or even weeks at a time.
Monique Miller of Londonderry barely kept her composure as she explained how her son has suffered for years with schizophrenia. She highlighted how recently was forced to spend time 18 days in an emergency room as he’s waited for an opening at New Hampshire Hospital, the state’s psychiatric facility.
“This was absolutely the worst and most inhumane experience we’ve ever had,” she explained to the committee as she pleaded for more state funding for additional mental health beds.
Heidi Torsi of Merrimack explained that “I have a child with mental health challenges.”
She told committee members that “I’m here to ask you for support for mental health services.”
Some health care providers also testified, telling the lawmakers that the state needed to boost the what Medicaid paid for both hospital care and home care.
The New Hampshire Health Care Association’s Brendan Williams said that the state’s under-funded reimbursement rates to nursing homes for many years.
Representatives of nursing homes and home care providers urged the committee to increase the amounts paid by Medicaid for both institutional and home care.
Brendan Williams of the N.H. Health Care Association, representing long-term care providers, said the state has underfunded its reimbursement rates to nursing homes for years.
State House of Representatives Finance Committee members hold a public hearing on the budget at a packed Derry Town Hall on March 6, 2017