To The Daily Sun,
I have been an emergency room physician at Lakes Region General Hospital since 2008, when I moved here from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. My family and I live in Gilford, and on Jan. 12 I went to my first Town of Gilford Budget Committee meeting.
One of the warrant articles set before the committee was a proposal to compensate Genesis Behavioral Health for some of the cost of the charitable care that Genesis provided last year to residents of Gilford. In 2016, Genesis treated 221 Gilford residents for mental health care, 51 of whom required emergency services. Seventeen of these residents were under age 18, 26 were 18-61, and eight were older than 61. This was an increase from the 41 Gilford residents who required emergency mental health care in 2015. It cost Genesis Behavioral Health $35,797 to provide this 24 hour a day service to Gilford residents last year.
Genesis is asking Gilford to reimburse $21,000 (58 percent of their cost). The Budget Committee voted against any reimbursement for Genesis for its care of Gilford residents. This decision however is only a non-binding recommendation to the voters. The question will be decided by a public town vote on March 14 and I urge the people of Gilford to provide the funding.
Genesis Behavioral Health is a non-profit community mental health center that serves Belknap and Southern Grafton counties. They provide outpatient care for children and adults, including emergency services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
A counselor is available for mental health crises at LRGH, Franklin Regional Hospital, and Speare Memorial Hospital. On some shifts, one counselor covers all three of these hospitals at the same time. The counselor typically interviews the patient in crisis face-to-face at LRGH, and by telemedicine at Franklin and Speare. At the same time, this counselor is also fielding phone calls from patients in the community who are calling a hot line asking for help and guidance. Counselors work directly with emergency room staff in the care of patients, consulting psychiatrists via telephone.
A mental health crisis typically involves a person who is suicidal, homicidal, or otherwise at risk to themselves or others. No patient is turned away for lack of insurance or any other reason, and in fact there is a legal mandate for the emergency services counselor to see each patient. Genesis helps patients secure public or private insurance, but mental health patients generally have a higher uninsured rate than the overall population.
Last year, Genesis provided $789,000 in uncompensated care to towns in Belknap and Southern Grafton counties. In a typical year, 24 towns are asked to provide some reimbursement for the expense of caring for their uninsured patients. Usually all but five towns vote in favor of providing the funding. As far as I know, Gilford is the only town at this point whose Budget Committee has recommended against providing this money. In the past twp weeks, Belmont, Ashland, Gilmanton, and Alexandria committees have all voted to recommend that their voters provide the funding.
There will be a public budget session in Gilford on Tuesday, Feb. 7, to discuss this article. Our town vote will take place March 14. I urge you to vote in favor of this request. Our town, Gilford, should reimburse Genesis for this essential mental health service. It is the ethical and responsible choice.
- Category: Letters
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