The Hippo


May 31, 2020








Positive state rankings

2nd Most Financially Savvy State
3rd Best State to Have a Baby
4th Best State for Health Care
5th Best State for Women
10th Least Federally Dependent State
7th Least Stressful State
5th Best State for Child Health Care
3rd Best State for Military Retirees
8th Best Economy in the Country
10th Best State for Working Dads
4th Most Independent State
13th Most Patriotic State
10th Happiest State
Concord: 7th Best City to Live In 
Nashua: Safest City in the Country
Source: WalletHub

The State in Review
Areas that saw improvements in the past year

By Ryan Lessard

 Despite all the negative headlines of 2017, New Hampshire saw its fair share of positive strides in several key areas.

Recent months have been eye-opening as investigatory reports by the Boston Globe and whistleblowers revealed systemic problems at the Manchester VA Medical Center, which included alleged neglect of treatable conditions, unsterile surgical tools and an operating room chronically infested with flies. 
The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department intervened, removed top leadership, installed an interim director and began the work of figuring out what went wrong. Then, just a few days after the interim director started working in Manchester this past July, a catastrophic water line burst in an upper floor, causing severe flood damage in several floors of the building.
The good news starts before this, in fact. Whistleblowers were empowered to report the problems without fear of retaliation thanks to a new act passed by Congress over the summer. Many of the alleged problems had been going on for years. But improvements are now ongoing.
“Veterans in the Granite State are being heard, and have much to look forward to in 2018,” said Kristin Pressly, spokesperson for the VA Medical Center.
Some changes have already been made, including unprecedented partnerships with private hospitals in the state, such as Catholic Medical Center in Manchester and Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester.
The facility also received a $360,000 grant for its Whole Health Program, to expand its complementary practices such as yoga, biofeedback, mindfulness meditation, art therapy, reiki, tai chi and more. It’s expected to be fully operational by March.
Women veterans who use the facility have been asking for a more easily accessible and larger space that isn’t on the sixth floor, and steps are already being taken to fulfil those requests.
Veteran homelessness has also seen some improvements in the state. In fact, in March the city of Nashua was certified by federal agencies to have effectively ended veteran homelessness.
Despite some recent drops in test scores in the state, New Hampshire is leading the nation in public education. This year, U.S. News and World Report ranked the state’s pre-K to 12th-grade public schools No. 1 in the country.
“For good reason,” said Evelyn Aissa, executive director of Reaching Higher N.H. “[The state] is leading the nation in public education innovation.”
Demonstrative of this innovation is a massive shift toward more competency-based learning. The statewide program is called Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE) and it got U.S. Department of Education approval in 2015. The goal is to replace standardized tests with personalized assessments by local teachers.
Aissa said in 2016 there were 18 schools with over 19,000 students implementing PACE. In 2017, she said, that number increased to 32 schools with about 30,000 students.
In alignment with those goals, the Manchester School District announced in October that West High School will be converted to the state’s first competency-based high school, with the help of a $300,000 grant from the Barr Foundation.
Mental Health
While there remain serious disparities between access to mental health services and access to regular medical services, the Granite State is making significant strides to bridge that gap.
Ken Norton of NAMI New Hampshire said the governor and legislature significantly increased funding for mental health services this year and passed legislation to rebuild the state’s mental health infrastructure.
That included funding for 20 additional community residence beds in Fiscal Year 2018 and 20 more in Fiscal Year 2019. 
A new mobile crisis team began operating in Nashua in July.
Looking forward, Norton said a forthcoming gap analysis and strategic planning initiative will be helpful in guiding future transformation efforts.
The Department of Health and Human Services is proposing the construction of a new children’s wing at New Hampshire Hospital. It requested $3 million to draw up plans for the new wing back in May. 
And Norton said the state is making significant progress at developing a comprehensive system of care for children of parents with a condition called Serious Emotional Disturbance. That work began with legislation that passed in 2016.
Despite a housing crunch and a workforce shortage, New Hampshire has enjoyed several positive economic indicators over the past year.
Greg Bird, an economist at the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, said unemployment figures show there are about 20,000 residents unemployed right now. The unemployment rate has hovered below 3 percent (between 2.7 and 2.9 percent) since January.
“I would say calendar year 2017 is the first since the recovery began where we have seen a measurable decline in the ranks of the unemployed, because we are probably at ‘bottom,’ meaning as low it can likely be,” Bird said.
Earlier this year, New Hampshire was named the state with the highest median household income in the country (based on 2016 Census data) with a median income of $76,260. And a local consumer confidence survey by UNH found that incomes had risen. The number of households who reported their finances had improved over the year prior was 45 percent, the highest since April 2004. Meanwhile, the percentage who say they are worse off (14 percent) is at an all-time low.
Bird said that while there was a lot of economic activity in the form of Gross Domestic Product, job growth, wages, household spending and population changes, most of the activity is concentrated in Hillsborough and Rockingham counties in the southeastern part of the state.
And economic growth is expected to slow soon. Signs of hiring slowing down have already begun to show. Bird expects economic growth will grind to a halt around 2019 as employers run out of available workers.
On the tourism front, there have been signs of positive growth, according to Kris Nielsen at the Division of Travel and Tourism Development. Rooms and meals tax revenue grew in Fiscal Year 2017 to an estimated $325 million, which was a 5 percent increase over the year prior and 2.3 better than expected. Toll counts reached 119,718,495, which was an increase of 1.9 percent over the previous year.
According to the division’s independent researcher SMARTInsights, seasonal campaigns from Fiscal Year 2016 influenced more than 750,000 trips to the state, resulting in $831 million in visitor spending. 

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