Mental Health Laws and Legislation
Union Leader – July 1, 2017 The Other Laws to Watch for NH Impact – As Gov. Chris Sununu prepared to sign a bill granting grandparents “first-in-line” status when it comes to foster care for their own grandchildren, he pointed out that many bills work their way through the Legislature that don’t get the same attention as the state budget or other high-profile issues.
“All the headlines have been about the budget and kindergarten,” he said at the ceremonial signings last week, “but a lot of other important bills were passed.”
High-profile legislation including election reform, fetal homicide, school choice, DCYF funding, mental health beds and concealed carry have been widely covered, but the governor signed nearly 80 other bills into law over the past two weeks. Here are some highlights.
Needle exchanges Bill: HB 234
What happened: After a needle exchange bill last year got hung up in the Senate, both House and Senate agreed on an exchange program this year that allows intravenous drug users to turn in dirty needles for new ones to reduce the spread of disease and problems associated with improperly discarded needles.
What they said: “The program we’ve developed will offer some legal protections for those using illicit substances to dispose of syringes with trace amounts of drugs and obtain clean syringes while also ensuring that substance users have access and are provided with the guidance they need to enter treatment and recovery programs in the state.” – Sen. James Gray. R-Rochester.
What’s next: The bill took effect upon being signed by the governor on June 16. Soon after, the first exchange opened in Claremont, run by two Dartmouth Medical students out of a local soup kitchen using donations and grants.
Reorganization of DRED Bill: HB 517 (budget trailer bill)
What happened: Sununu proposed and the Legislature approved a reorganization of the Department of Resources and Economic Development by taking the divisions of economic development, and travel and tourism and combining them into a new agency – the Department of Business and Economic Affairs (BEA). The remaining divisions of Parks and Recreation and Forestry are being combined with the Department of Cultural Resources to create the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
What they said: “The BEA will become a one-stop shop for all New Hampshire’s business needs, which will help drive our economy and make businesses and workforce development a top priority again.” – Gov. Sununu
What’s next: The new agencies have to be set up by two new commissioners, one of whom Sununu is expected to nominate on Wednesday before the Executive Council. Taylor Caswell of Hollis will be nominated to serve as the new Commissioner of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs.
Expanded medical marijuana Bill: HB 160
What happened: A session that saw the Legislature decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, and set up a commission to study full legalization and retail distribution, also expanded the state’s medical marijuana program by adding moderate to severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome to the list of qualifying conditions and “moderate to severe pain” as a qualifying symptom.
What they said: “PTSD can often go untreated while many victims choose to self-isolate and self-medicate. The potential to use medical cannabis may bring more patients into a clinical setting.” – Rep. Jess Edwards, R- Auburn.
What’s next: As of Friday, lawmakers were still waiting for Sununu to sign HB 640, the marijuana decriminalization bill. “This is not cause for concern,” says Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project. “There are often delays this time of year as the Legislature’s work concludes. Gov. Sununu has clearly indicated that he looks forward to signing the bill when it reaches his desk.”
Civics education Bill: SB 45
What happened: This new law creates a uniform framework for the administration of civics courses to include instruction on the U.S. Constitution, the New Hampshire Constitution, the structures and functions of federal government and how those branches interact with state and local government, opportunities and responsibilities for civic involvement and the skills to be an effective citizen.
What they said: “As a former civics teacher, it is with great enthusiasm and pride that we’ve taken the subject of civics and elevated it to a position where our young people will know what our government is all about, how it functions and will become active participants in the process.” – Sen Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester.
What’s next: The law takes effect Aug. 7, so when school reconvenes in the fall, public and private schools in the state will have to introduce a civics course at eighth grade or sooner, to continue through high school, as a one credit course of instruction required for high school graduation.
Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission Bill: HB 340
What happened: This bill creates a commission to study and make recommendations for the former Laconia State School land and buildings, and makes capital and operating appropriations to fund the commission. Lawmakers hope this Pease Development Authority-style commission can convert the old state school property into the same economic development success story as the Pease International Tradeport.
What they said: “After years of debate related to the Laconia State School and its future, I am proud to say that with the passage of HB 340 by the House and Senate, there is a viable solution in place that will bring long-term economic development to this community.” – Harold French, R-Franklin.
What’s next: The commission will have to be appointed within 20 days of June 22 and hold its first meeting within 10 days of being appointed. Its first priority will be to identify potential public-private partnerships for the valuable lakeside property.
Drinking water cleanup Bill: SB 57
What happened: This bill appropriates $3.5 million this year and $5 million next year so the state can make good on its commitment to pay for water contamination mitigation projects from years ago that had been suspended due to lack of funding. Projects to be funded include extension of public water lines, sewer system improvements and separation of sewer systems from storm water run-off collection for seven different municipalities.
What they said: “It is imperative that our residents have access to clean drinking water for the future of our public health and as we continue to grow business and jobs in the state.” – Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro.
What’s next: The bill took effect upon passage, so planning is already under way in the communities with approved projects – North Conway, Merrimack, Nashua, Claremont, Dover, Enfield and Lebanon.
Veterinarians prescribing opioids Bill: SB 116
What happened: Veterinarians will no longer be required to query or report to the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program when prescribing or dispensing opioids for pets. The requirement was introduced as a way of preventing addicts from using their pets to get opioids, but the administrative burden on veterinarians was considered unreasonable.
What they said: “While the opioid crisis in New Hampshire is a serious issue, requiring veterinarians to query the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database is problematic and an excessive regulatory burden that may create potential Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violations.” – Rep. Howard Pearl, R-Loudon.
What’s next: The bill takes effect within 60 days. Veterinarians will still be required to register with the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and report when they dispense a 48 hour or greater supply of opioids. The Board of Veterinary Medicine will have to implement rules for pain management plans and continuing education focused on opioid use and prescribing practices.