NH doctor honored for work with mental illness

Published: Jul. 12, 2023 at 6:34 PM EDT
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CONCORD, N.H. (WCAX) - The National Alliance on Mental Illness is recognizing a New Hampshire doctor on the front lines of the mental crisis in our region.

New Hampshire Hospital in Concord treats the state’s most severe mental health issues.

“It’s a hopeful moment in the crisis,” said chief medical officer Dr. Jeff Fetter. He says the pandemic highlighted the necessity for partnerships in health care. “Things like virtual partial hospitalization programs, things like respite beds. Things that were stood up temporarily and then had to be shut down,” he said.

New Hampshire Hospital, the state’s only psychiatric facility, is currently at its capacity of 150 patients. Forty-four other people are currently in emergency rooms around the region waiting for a bed there. But Fetter says beds are not the problem. “There actually are enough New Hampshire Hospital beds. We don’t need a single more bed if we had enough beds downstream that were appropriate,” Fetter said.

He says they need the right beds and more staffing. Working with Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine -- where he is also a professor, Fetter is helping to build out the residency and training programs at the hospital. “We need the best and the brightest -- nurse practitioner students, nurses, social workers, physicians to go into this field because we don’t have enough people,” he said.

His insight has earned him recognition with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “The reality is we are all impacted by mental illness in one way or another and it is our collective obligation to work together to resolve these issues,” said Susan Stearns with NAMI’s New Hampshire chapter.

She nominated Fetter for the award and says solving mental health requires a complete transformation of the entire system. “There are so many mental health care professionals like Dr. Fetter who have expanded practices, extended their hours, gone above and beyond to meet these needs and they truly are our health care heroes,” Stearns said.

“It’s a really meaningful and touching thing and I’m really grateful that they chose to recognize me that way,” Fetter said.

Fetter was one of four doctors across the country recognized for their work in the field.