Incremental progress in kids’ mental health system

CONCORD -- New Hampshire has made “important incremental improvements” in establishing a system of care for children with behavioral health needs, though significant gaps in services remain, according to an annual progress report issued by the state.

Building on years of work by advocates, state agencies, school districts and providers, the Legislature in 2016 directed the state departments of education and health and human services to develop a comprehensive that both helps children and reduces reliance on ineffective, expensive interventions. Goals include coordinating care for children across multiple service systems -- for example, those in the child protection or juvenile justice systems -- and ensuring that services are family-driven and community-based.

The most recent report, completed in December, outlines progress on multiple fronts. Schools are now able to be reimbursed by Medicaid for behavioral health services provided to all children covered by the program, not just those with individual education plans. The state is expanding a program called FAST Forward, which serves children with severe emotional disturbances and helps with peer support, respite care, transportation and other expenses. And for the first time, children will be included in the state’s forthcoming 10-year plan for mental health services.

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