Policy & Practice | Summer 2023

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By Joanna K. Morgan

Addressing the Youth Mental Health Emergency: Lessons from New Hampshire’s Comprehensive Response

F acing a historic challenge impacting millions of children and adolescents, New Hampshire has organized state resources to launch a comprehensive, statewide program that tackles the growing needs of children and families. By drawing on public- and private-sector partners and technology, and aligning traditionally separate agency functions, the state has found a way to maximize impact. pandemic shut down schools and upturned family life and develop mental milestones for millions of young Americans, mental health among children and adolescents has been a growing concern in the United States. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, the number of children and adolescents seeking emergency help for mental health issues rose by 20–30 percent in 2020. 1 The pandemic has intensified social isola tion, economic stress, and disruptions to everyday routines and support systems, all of which have contrib uted to the increase in mental health issues among young people. Citing an uptick in emergency room visits and alarming upsurges in depression, anxiety, grief from the loss of a caregiver, and suicidality in K-12 populations, the American Association of Pediatrics has declared a state of emergency in children’s mental health. 2 A Nationwide Crisis Even before the COVID-19

Impact of the COVID 19 Pandemic on U.S.

New Hampshire’s Promising Practices: Comprehensive Assessment forTreatment (CAT) Services Program The state of New Hampshire (NH) has taken a proactive approach to addressing the increase in mental health needs, and the full scope of their efforts actually predates the pandemic. In June 2021, the Comprehensive Assessment for Treatment (CAT) program was launched as part of an intensive redesign of the state’s behavioral health services and in alignment with NH’s System of Care Law, RSA 135-F. 3 The NH System of Care Transformation ini tiative makes resources more accessible,

Children’s Mental Health While we may not know the whole story of the pandemic’s impact for many years, educators, parents, and therapists agree that the pandemic has profoundly upended the mental health landscape for young people. Academic and social setbacks, grief, and financial insecurity have all con tributed to the increase in mental health issues during the pandemic— and unfortunately, too many kids fail to get help before their burden and unmet needs lead them to emergency circumstances.


Policy & Practice Summer 2023

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