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Collaborative hosts community meeting on children’s behavioral health in Penacook

Starting this week and continuing through May, a group of New Hampshire organizations is seeking input and action on a new plan to improve children’s behavioral and mental health services.

The New Hampshire Children’s Behavioral Health Collaborative was created in 2010 from representatives of more than 50 organizations.

As many as 20 percent of New Hampshire children have an emotional disorder, and most aren’t getting the help they need to keep functioning normally every day, said Kim Firth, program director at the Endowment for Health, which paid for the collaborative’s work developing the plan.

In a first step, the state Department of Health and Human Services received a four-year grant last fall to explore creating an entity that would serve as a centralized hub for managing services, costs and care, Firth said.

As a next step, the collaborative is hosting community forums for anyone involved in children’s behavioral health – including educators, primary care physicians and mental health care centers.

A meeting for local stakeholders is scheduled for May 3 from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Merrimack Valley High School in Penacook.

After a presentation about the plan and the goals of the grant, attendants will have a chance to identify their areas of interest. Collaborative officials will contact them in the future about what they can do to help.

“I think of it as getting everyone in the same boat and rowing in the same direction,” Firth said.

While the collaborative believes that the current system is under-funded, implementing the plan won’t necessarily cost more money, officials said earlier this week.

“We do know prevention is much more effective than intervention and treatment,” Firth said. “We’ve learned we have a lot of mechanisms in place to pay for services . . . It’s just that we don’t have a consumer-friendly front door.”

At least part of the problem, according to the report, is
that children are served by separate, distinct organizations, including schools, primary care doctors and community mental health centers, who receive funding from different sources and often don’t collaborate or coordinate with one another.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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