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Hampstead Hospital Workers Injured by Patient

Published Tuesday Mar 19, 2024

Author Angelina Berube, Eagle Tribune

Hampstead Hospital before the state bought it in June 2022. (Photo: NH Bulletin)

Despite two employees being injured by a patient at Hampstead Hospital on Sunday, state officials say they are working through a rough patch to keep the hospital’s staff and youth patients safe.

While the incident involved one patient, the care of the other 35 patients at the hospital was not affected, said Morissa Henn, deputy commissioner of New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services.

“The hospital is a place of healing and calm despite the fact we’ve had one or two challenging patients the last couple of weeks,” she said.

As the state looks to continue to stabilize situations and improve the hospital’s programming, Henn acknowledged these types of incidents are not uncommon for institutions that treat acutely ill patients.

The state purchased Hampstead Hospital, a privately owned psychiatric facility, in June 2022. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services now runs the hospital, which serves children and young people with psychiatric and substance abuse disorders.

In May, the hospital opened East Acres, New Hampshire’s only Level 5 psychiatric treatment wing for youths.

Henn said there have been some emergency calls in recent weeks related to one or two youths dealing with acute psychiatric needs. The state plans to sit down with first responders and law enforcement to discuss the incidents.

Hampstead police Chief Bob Kelley reported his department responded to 11 emergency calls in February and nine so far in March for juveniles in crisis at the hospital.

On Sunday, one patient “exhibited assault behaviors on staff” in two separate instances. First responders were called to the scene and the incidents were resolved quickly, she added.

Staff members injured are expected to make a full recovery.

“We take what happened very seriously,” Henn said. “We hope no staff ever experiences violence at work. We will do everything we can to ensure their safety and patient safety at the hospital.”

Henn said a lot of these kids have been in other state services like the Department of Child and Family services and in the juvenile justice system. Most of the youth patients at the hospital are dealing with a high level of trauma and mental health needs from adversities they have faced.

Because of these things, their behavior can change, leading to escalation and sometimes aggression, Henn said.

The state has taken measures to improve safety like installing cameras, locking doors, thickening walls and adding fencing.

A security and safety assessment of the building is also expected to be reported shortly.

Staffing has also increased, exceeding requirements for institutional accreditation. Patients at Hampstead Hospital receive at least one-on-one service to ensure care isn’t interrupted when escalation from another patient occurs.

The goal is to limit aggressive behaviors which could impact other patients.

Henn said the state will continue to work with local and state police and first responders to make sure everyone is up-to-date with hospital protocols and communication methods when it comes to any emergency situation.

Local police will also be offered a 40-hour crisis intervention training.

While the hospital has hit some rough patches, Henn is encouraged by the Hampstead Hospital’s around-the-clock safety ambassador team, which formed when the state took over hospital ownership.

On average, they deescalate 50 situations each month with verbal tactics instead of needing law enforcement assistance.

“Deescalated behavior is being managed within the walls of the facility,” Henn said.

The Youth Development Center is also still on pace to open in 2025 at the Hampstead Hospital campus.

The center will be the place of the Sununu Youth Services Center and serve detained and committed youth in a secure environment with therapeutic programs.

“It’s about addressing the needs of our most vulnerable,” Henn said of the youth with complex behaviors.

She said she hopes the hospital and center will be able to serve each other, possibly sharing therapeutic services or educational offerings for the juveniles.

But first, the state department will address keeping everyone at Hampstead Hospital safe while helping the young people in its care be able to integrate back into their communities.

“We will get through this bumpy period as an institution and try to improve the system to best serve the youth.”

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