The Senate unanimously passed a bill Thursday that would mandate significant improvements to the state’s child welfare system, which legislators described as recovering from a state of disrepair.
SB 14 would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to establish and maintain a single entity to oversee and coordinate care for children with complex behavioral issues. It would also create mobile units across the state to respond to crises involving children and establish an online information clearinghouse for caretakers of children with mental and behavioral health issues.
The bill would carry an estimated cost of just over $9 million for each of the next two fiscal years, but senators of both parties said that price tag was far outweighed by the cost of doing nothing.
Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said one lawsuit brought against the state resulted in a $7 million settlement.
“It’s a significant cost. We can’t deny that,” he said of SB 14. But he added that “we’ve come together to address what was, quite frankly, a pretty woeful child care system in the state of New Hampshire.”
The legislation now moves to the House.