Legislation Focuses Attention on Children's Mental Health

Senator Jeanie Forrester is the lead sponsor for LSR 2932, which the New Hampshire Children’s Behavioral Health Collaborative (CBHC) played a role in developing. Forrester is a third-term senator and serves as chair of the Finance Committee.

The bill has broad-based and bipartisan support in both houses of the legislature. The bill represents the first step in building an integrated statewide system for youth with behavioral health challenges. The LSR at press time did not yet have a senate bill number.

In 2013 the CBHC produced the state’s first strategic plan to transform NH’s system of mental health and substance abuse services. Senator Forrester saw that the bill was vital to building the system of care envisioned by the strategic plan.

Effie Malley, Director of the CBHC, concurs: “Driving the work of the Collaborative is the system of care approach, which means that families get a voice and choice in what happens with their youth. It also means that services for the youth are coordinated, culturally relevant, and close to home whenever possible. This bill is a crucial first step towards building our system of care,” says.

Extensive research from across the country shows that the system of care approach is an effective investment that brings better outcomes for youth and families. A national study found the system of care approach effective for children and youth who have behavioral health challenges. Outcomes for youth included:

  • Decreased suicide rates, substance use, and juvenile justice involvement
  • Increased school attendance, improved academics, and increased stability in living situation

Aside from delivering better outcomes for youth, the system of care approach has been found to be more cost effective: youth served with the system of care approach are less likely to use expensive services, visit emergency departments, or be hospitalized. Services are better utilized, multiple providers coordinate their efforts, and services build families’ own capabilities to help their children.

CBHC is getting the word out about the system of care bill. It is important that CBHC members and partners understand the bill and can explain the importance of a system of care for children in New Hampshire. CBHC has trained a number of advocates who can play a more active role by meeting with their legislators, testifying to legislative committees, or writing a letter to the editor. Sometime in January the LSR will be given a senate bill number and assigned to a committee for review and public hearing. You can expect to hear more from us as the legislative session progresses.