Expanding Capacity to Support Families  

Kim Firth
 Kim Firth, Program Director
As a parent, I have experienced first-hand the impact that COVID-19 has had on children's mental health and overall well-being. The change of routines, break in continuity of learning and in health care, loneliness and physical separation from friends and family, and missed life events are taxing on children and parents alike.
Pre-pandemic, we understood that social and emotional challenges in children were common and that we, as a state, must do more to ensure that all children receive the services and supports they need for healthy development. The need for a continuum of care that supports children and their families has never been more evident.
Many families are also experiencing job loss and the repercussions of an economic shutdown that none of us have experienced in our lifetimes. Financial stressors, food and housing insecurity, and domestic violence are raining down on too many Granite State families, causing toxic stress that impacts mental health and well-being.    

The First Level of Support:  
Thoughts from Our Board  

"Schools are frequently the first level of support to a child and family dealing with mental illness. Concerning behaviors often become more evident with the demands of school and increased social involvement.

Schools do their best to support the student in the academic environment and  also make referrals to resources and community supports. It is extremely difficult if the resources are not available. Mental health is more easily achieved when all involved work together to support the child and family."

-Frances Strayer, EH Board, Former Social Worker and Counselor  

In The Words of Our Community Partners

Empowering Children and Caregivers with Knowledge and Resources
"Prioritizing the well-being of our children and families is more important than ever  because children thrive when parents and caregivers feel empowered. They need access to the knowledge and resources required to actively promote safe, stable, and nurturing environments.  
New Hampshire families have shown remarkable strength in the face of the innumerable challenges 2020 has delivered. Our state's network of family resource centers plays an essential role in this regard, offering a range of enrichment programs and services accessible to all families. New Hampshire Children's Trust works in partnership with Family Support New Hampshire and the family resource centers to raise public awareness and access to these services. We are committed to serving and promoting family and support programs across the state. The resilience of our people and the continued engagement of state leaders is critical to ensuring well-being. These are critical components of sustaining and building on our strength as a community."  
-Joelyn Drennan, MFA
Senior Program Director
New Hampshire Children's Trust
Hope, Strength and Resiliency
"The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown New Hampshire, our country, and the world, into a tailspin economically, socially, politically, and undoubtedly mentally. The uncertainty, isolation, and anxiety surrounding the pandemic has affected  families and youth in countless ways. Some families whose children were already experiencing mental health challenges found that, at least initially, life was easier without the battle of going to school.
However, reality soon set in. The in-person supports many families relied upon were not feasible in a pandemic. Respite for families, which was difficult even before COVID-19, now could not happen at all. Many other families witnessed their children experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression for the first time. The wait time to see a mental health provider has only gotten longer. Emergency departments throughout the state have increasing numbers of children waiting for psychiatric beds. But one of the most important things we all need to remember, and that I have truly learned in my three years working at NAMI New Hampshire, is that there is hope. NH families are strong and resilient, and they work vigorously to improve the system for the future."

-Michele Watson, NH Family Network Coordinator
NAMI New Hampshire

Building a Better System of Care for  
New Hampshire's Kids 
"A law passed five years ago enabled the Departments of Health & Human Services and Education to create a comprehensive system of care for children's behavioral health.  
We have made significant progress including creation of a service array called Fast Forward that serves children and families with the most acute needs.  Additionally, DHHS is working to procure an array of new services including expansion of mobile crisis teams, creation of a psychiatric residential treatment facility, and assessment capacity for residential treatment. The Departments also lead the Children's System of Care Advisory Council comprised of over 100 individuals and organizations who are working to identify gaps, collaboratively develop solutions, and measure outcomes across the system."

-Erica Ungarelli, Director
Bureau for Children's Behavioral Health

Multi-Tiered System of Supports
"The Multi-Tiered System of Supports for Behavioral Health (MTSS-B) has been shown to improve student engagement while creating school climates and cultures that are positive and inclusive of all students.    
The framework improves student academic outcomes and reduces behavioral issues. It also gives school staff and administrators a unified approach to teaching social emotional skills and helps them tap into community mental health services more effectively.   
Recent state legislation affirms the MTSS-B as a means to improve educational outcomes and keep students in their home schools and communities."

-JoAnne Malloy, Ph.D.    
Institute on Disability at UNH

Copyright © 2020. All Rights Reserved.