NH mental health providers concerned about kids during pandemic

Gov. Chris Sununu
Gov. Chris Sununu
Published: Aug. 24, 2020 at 6:38 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2020 at 3:59 PM EDT
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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Mental health officials said Monday that children are a particular concern during the coronavirus pandemic both as patients and as offspring of providers working from home.

The pandemic has exacerbated existing workforce challenges in behavioral health, Cynthia Whitaker, interim president of Greater Nashua Mental Health, said during an online discussion organized by U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H. She and others said many providers are juggling their jobs with overseeing their children’s remote educations.

“We have a lot of staff hitting this breaking point in the fall of, ‘Can I actually effectively do my job, talking to someone who’s had a traumatic event, while in the next room my child can’t get on Zoom for math class?’” said Rebecca Throop, vice president of community relations at Seacoast Mental Health Center.

Referrals to mental health centers for children have dropped during the pandemic, Throop said, because teachers haven’t been assessing children. And parents often aren’t equipped, she said.

“When we’re getting children in emergency services for intakes, the severity we’re seeing has skyrocketed,” she said. “Parents are waiting until there’s a crisis and then they bring their kids in when it’s so obvious you can’t ignore it.”

The state accomplished a major mental health care milestone in late March when, for the first time in eight years, no one was waiting in a hospital emergency room for an inpatient psychiatric bed. But the waitlist has been steadily increasing, and on one day last week, 42 adults and 23 children were waiting in emergency rooms.

Hassan, who also heard from providers who treat veterans and those struggling with substance use disorders, said she hopes Congress will approve additional funding for mental health, including training and education and expanded broadband to support telehealth.

(Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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