by Annmarie Timmins, New Hampshire Bulletin
The Department of Health and Human Services was before the Executive Council Wednesday with a second request to repurpose unspent federal money to cover higher-than-expected construction costs for a new forensic hospital.
The council gave the department the OK Wednesday to use $4.8 million it set aside during the pandemic to pay outpatient surgery centers to take COVID-19 patients if hospitals couldn’t treat them. The money remains available because the additional space was not needed, interim Commissioner Lori Weaver told the council in her request.
The department got approval for a similar request in November to use $5.75 million in unspent federal pandemic assistance to cover increased construction costs. Lawmakers allotted $38 million for a hospital capped at 24 beds, 16 fewer than the department had sought.
The state has received two bids, from PC Construction in Vermont for $41.9 million and Engelberth Construction in Concord for $44.2 million.
The hospital would sit next to the New Hampshire Hospital and treat patients who committed a crime but cannot stand trial because of their mental illness; people found not guilty at trial because of their illness; and people who have not broken the law but are too dangerous to be treated in a conventional setting like the state hospital.
They are currently hospitalized at the state prison.
Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Charlie Arlinghaus said Thursday it’s not uncommon for bids to come in over estimated costs, something lawmakers and state officials anticipated may happen once the forensic hospital project was better defined. Arlinghaus said of the last 29 contracts that went before the Executive Council, 19 were higher than estimated.
In her letter to the council, Weaver said the hospital remains on track to open in late summer or early fall of 2024.
For more information on the project timeline and design, visit the Department of Health and Human Services website at dhhs.nh.gov and search “forensic hospital.”
This story was written by Annmarie Timmins, Senior Reporter at the New Hampshire Bulletin, where this story first appeared.
New Hampshire Bulletin is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Hampshire Bulletin maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Dana Wormald for questions: email@example.com. Follow New Hampshire Bulletin on Facebook and Twitter.