Group cites progress for children’s mental health

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Members of a coalition working to fix New Hampshire’s fragmented support system for children with mental health and substance abuse problems said Thursday they have made significant progress in the last year.

Created in 2010, the New Hampshire Children’s Behavioral Health Collaborative brings together more than 50 organizations. It released a plan a year ago focused on nine core goals, including getting families and children more involved in the planning and delivery of services and minimizing barriers between the agencies and institutions that provide those services.

An estimated 1 in 5 children in New Hampshire has an emotional disorder that affects their daily functioning, and according to a recent report from the Foundation for Healthy Communities, children seeking appointments at the state’s community mental health centers wait an average of 42 days.

While members of the collaborative believe the state’s system for helping such children is underfunded, they also are focused on finding ways the state can use existing resources more effectively and efficiently.

In an update for lawmakers, members said much of the progress made in the last year involved securing federal grants to support their work. For example, the state Education Department is developing programs to improve the social and emotional development of very young children and reduce bullying and violence among older children, and the Division for Children, Youth and Families is working to improve the mental health of children and families served by the child protection and juvenile justice systems.

While those projects are just getting underway, they are part of a strong foundation, said Health and Human Services Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas.

“It truly is a statewide and community effort that is happening,” he said. “What we’re talking about is building an infrastructure in order to better care for these kids going forward. Children are the foundation for everything we do going forward as a society and a state, and this issue of mental illness is something that impacts many.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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