The number of counselors at New Hampshire's youth detention center has dropped to an all-time low, but the state is moving to bring in temporary workers soon.
The Executive Council on Wednesday approved spending $847,000 in federal funds to work with a staffing agency and bring in 18 temporary youth counselors for seven months.
State officials said that while the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester has had difficulty hiring staff in the past, until recently it had been able to safely operate relying on offering overtime to existing staff. But in the past few months, it has had fewer youth counselors than at any prior time, just as the state is facing an increased demand for child and adolescent mental health care during the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials said in the past month, nearly half of the youths at the facility required one-on-one or two-to-one staffing to ensure they were not a danger to themselves or others.
The center, formerly called the Youth Development Center, has been the target of a broad criminal investigation since 2019 and faces more than 100 lawsuits alleging physical and sexual abuse. In the past two years, more than 430 men and women have come forward with accusations against 150 staffers. Their allegations span six decades, and 11 former staffers face criminal charges.
The average population at the facility last year was just 17 residents overseen by about 90 employees, though it once housed upward of 100 youths and employed a larger staff. The current state budget calls for replacing it with a much smaller facility by March 2023.