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Wanted: Child Psychiatrists in New Hampshire

October 6, 2011

CONCORD, N.H. - ADHD, ADD, autism and bi-polar disorder are just a few forms of mental illness and serious emotional disturbances facing kids and teenagers in New Hampshire. While the degree to which they suffer can vary greatly, the need for help by trained medical professionals does not.

All kids should have access to care, regardless of socio-economic background, says Dr. R. Joffree Barnett, associate professor in the Dept. of Psychiatry at Dartmouth Medical School and director of the New Hampshire Hospital Children's Unit Fellowship Training Program. The problem, he says, is the shortage of child psychiatrists in the state.

"The waiting list to get in to see psychiatrists is usually on the order of a month-and-a-half, at least, and that's true for the community mental health centers as well as Dartmouth and other private practitioners."

In the case of community health centers, Barnett says it can be an even longer wait before patients are able to see someone who can prescribe medicine. He adds that as a result of the shortage, some kids are falling through the cracks.

Budget cuts made by the legislature to various programs for health and human services not only affect kids, schools and families suffering from mental health issues, Barnett says, but the lack of attention to prevention will add to higher costs for taxpayers down the line.

"Pay now, or pay later - and if you pay now, you're going to be paying less. They need to invest in appropriate preventative kinds of intervention that then reduce the need for more expensive and intensive interventions later."

Those more expensive interventions can include emergency rooms or the juvenile justice system, Barnett warns.

This is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and New Hampshire Hospital has an open house today featuring photos, displays and live stories about the hospital's past, and how it compares with the present-day. The open house is scheduled on Thursday from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the lobby at the New Hampshire Hospital, Concord.

Additional resources can be found at www.naminh.org.


Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH