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Legislation Aims to Coordinate NH Mental-Health Services for Children

Supporters of a bill in the New Hampshire Legislature say their goal is to make it easier for families to access mental health services for children. (NH Children’s Behavioral Health Collaborative)
Supporters of a bill in the New Hampshire Legislature say their goal is to make it easier for families to access mental health services for children. (NH Children’s Behavioral Health Collaborative)
March 28, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. - New Hampshire has plenty of resources available to help children with mental health issues, but advocates say it can be difficult for families to access them.

They claim the system is fragmented, with differing approaches to care and multiple providers.

Effie Malley, director of the New Hampshire Children's Behavioral Health Collaborative, says her organization hears from families that their children are missing out on help.

She cites needless duplication and delays, but says a bill that passed the state Senate and is now in the House would provide better coordination, by adopting what's called a system-of-care approach.

"It's for kids with serious mental health challenges involved in multiple systems, such as juvenile justice, maybe the child protective system, the mental health system," she says. "But it's also for all kids, in that we want to promote wellness and mental health."

Malley says the system should make it easier for families who currently end up on demanding schedules trying to keep all the appointments with various agencies whose efforts aren't coordinated and approaches aren't integrated.

The measure, Senate Bill 534, is headed next to the House Committee on Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs.

Malley says they looked at a number of states, including Maine, that have already enacted this approach, and are encouraged by what they found.

"There have been numerous states and counties all over the country that have adopted a system-of-care approach," Malley says. "Children did better in school, they had lower rates of suicide, and return for the states was a positive investment."

The lead sponsor for the coordination-of-care bill is Sen. Jeanie Forrester. It comes up for the committee hearing on April 5 at 10 a.m.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH