May 1 – 7, 2017 was Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week in New Hampshire and what a week it was! Highlights from the week include:
- Schools and community organizations throughout the state held over 20 events, trainings, and films. These ranged from a “Cyber Shaping” discussion on Digital Technology in Keene to film screenings, such as Resilience and Disney’s Inside Out, to Change Direction presentations by former Chief Justice John Broderick.
- Mental health advocates showed up in force at the May 2 Senate Finance Committee public hearing to advocate for an amendment to HB 400. This amendment provides for home and community-based behavioral health services or “wraparound” services for children with severe emotional disturbances. Funding these services has been a major legislative priority for the CBHC in this legislative session.
- Just the week before on April 25, Governor Sununu, along with Senate President Chuck Morse, testified in support of the HB 400 amendment at the Senate H&HS hearing. The amendment includes measures to alleviate the emergency room boarding crisis, in which individuals with acute mental illness needing treatment are stuck in hospital emergency rooms because mental health beds are not available. The HB 400 amendment provides for additional mental health beds, transitional community beds, and new mobile crisis units. The amendment was unanimously endorsed by the Senate H&HS committee.
- On Wednesday, May 3, Governor Chris Sununu proclaimed May 1 – 7, 2017 as NH Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Members of the CBHC met with the Governor at the Executive Council meeting as he read the proclamation. See video here.
- On Thursday, May 4, the CBHC hosted a policy luncheon at St. Paul’s Church and over 80 state lawmakers attended. Senator Jeb Bradley spoke about the importance of HB 400. Next, Erica Ungarelli, Director for Children’s Behavioral Health at DHHS, spoke about the federally funded Fast Forward “wraparound” services including data that showed its success with NH families. Finally, a family member receiving services spoke about the importance of these services to her family. We were surprised and thrilled to receive such a big crowd and had to run out for extra sandwiches to keep the legislators fed!
- Thursday afternoon, the AP published Holly Ramer’s story Advocates for Children Seek Better Mental Health Services which covered the policy luncheon as well as activities throughout the week. The story ran in such far flung locations as San Francisco, Washington DC, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Michigan, and more. The article brought visibility to our efforts to increase mental health services in New Hampshire and closed with this summary of the week:
“The policy luncheon on Thursday was part of a week of activity organized by advocates for improving mental health care for children in New Hampshire. Libraries have been hosting showings of documentary films on mental health topics, former state Supreme Court Justice John Broderick has been visiting schools to discuss the five identifying signs of mental illness and Republican Gov. Chris Sununu praised the collaborative' work on Wednesday, saying mental health issues don't just materialize after high school and it's time for the state to make the issue a priority.”
May is Mental Health Month. The CBHC and its partners encourage NH citizens to remember to fight for services and help reduce stigma throughout the year for our one in five youth that experience behavioral health challenges.