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University of New Hampshire Law Review

Abstract

[Excerpt] "New Hampshire law provides for the involuntary commitment of a patient such as Jane when she is a danger to herself or others as a result of mental illness. The patient has a right to treatment under N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 135-C:1, et seq. Specifically, the patient should receive "adequate and humane treatment" pursuant to an "individual service plan" and "in the least restrictive environment necessary." However, appropriate facilities often are not available for patients waiting in emergency rooms, and patients can become trapped for hours or even days. This phenomenon is called "psychiatric boarding."

New Hampshire is not alone in providing a statutory right to treatment, and the problem of psychiatric boarding is common in other states." While enforcement of statutory rights to treatment often is elusive, the Washington Supreme Court delivered a landmark ruling on psychiatric boarding in August 2014, finding that it violated the state laws protecting involuntarily committed patients.

Could the Washington court's rationale lead to similar conclusions in other states? Looking to New Hampshire as an example, the state statutes for commitment and treatment rights are analogous to Washington's," and this suggests that the Washington ruling could prove a valuable precedent for barring psychiatric boarding in other states.

This Note will compare Washington's involuntary commitment law to New Hampshire's, argue that psychiatric boarding is illegal under New Hampshire law, and propose solutions for complying with the statute, including the continued implementation of community-based services. If New Hampshire implemented its statutory scheme as written, it would satisfy patients' rights to treatment." tion of community-based services. If New Hampshire implemented its statutory scheme as written, it would satisfy patients' rights to treatment."

Repository Citation

James A. McClure, Psychiatric Boarding in New Hampshire: Violation of a Statutory Right to Treatment, 14 U.N.H. L. REV. 197 (2016), available at http://scholars.unh.edu/unh_lr/vol14/iss1/6

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