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NH Retools Mental-Health Plan for Next Decade

The 2016 National Survey of Children's Health data showed that as many as one in six U.S. children ages 6-17 has a treatable mental-health disorder, such as depression, anxiety or Attention Deficit Disorder. (aafp.org)
The 2016 National Survey of Children's Health data showed that as many as one in six U.S. children ages 6-17 has a treatable mental-health disorder, such as depression, anxiety or Attention Deficit Disorder. (aafp.org)
May 29, 2019

CONCORD, N.H. - New Hampshire is taking on children's mental health in a bigger way in the next decade, focusing on earlier intervention and a mobile crisis service for children. Those are just two areas the state has said will get more attention to ensure that adults, children and youths get the appropriate support services, where and when they're needed.

Erica Ungarelli, director of the state Bureau of Children's Behavioral Health, said she believes the state's new 10-year plan will provide better outcomes for everyone seeking mental-health services.

"The needs of children and children's behavioral health are definitely in the forefront of this plan," she said. "We talk a lot about prevention strategies in this plan, for kids and for adults."

This month, Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill aimed at reducing the backlog of patients seeking mental-health services by allocating more money for hospital beds.

In the next few years, said Julianne Carbin, director of the state Bureau of Mental Health Services, New Hampshire will build a system that emphasizes family-driven, community-based services.

"I think New Hampshire is experiencing similar struggles that other states around the country are experiencing, and the initial recommendations look at the first two years," she said, "and if we're able to accomplish those recommendations, it sets a really strong foundation to build upon in future years."

Ungarelli said a new element of the 10-year plan is expansion of the mobile crisis service to include children.

"It's a model that has a team design to it, that is responsive and can go out where the individual is, at any time of the day or night, to address that immediate crisis issue," she said.

State officials hope that by making mobile crisis services available to children, situations can be addressed more quickly, which would help families avoid emergency-room trips or acute psychiatric hospitalization.

The mental-health plan is online at dhhs.nh.gov, and the text of Senate Bill 11 is at legiscan.com.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NH