Report: NH’s child welfare system needs more mental health, substance abuse and prevention services

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Figure 3  shows the number of open cases by district office and the number of entities providing these services
in each area.  From the report: “The providers report waitlists for the services above due to workforce shortages, the demands of cases and, in some cases, the distances they have to travel. It is hard to draw conclusions about whether the current DCYF service array is best suited to the needs of children, youth, and families across the state because the assessment data did not yield useful information about the needs of children, youth, and families. 

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on July 9 released an adequacy and enhancement assessment of New Hampshire’s child welfare system, which calls for more integration of mental health, substance abuse, and preventive services to better support youth and families.

The assessment builds on the alternative placement capacity report that DHHS submitted to the legislature in September 2017 related to youth who may be released or diverted from the Sununu Youth Services Center (SYSC) under HB 517, while also looking at ways to strengthen the broader child and family serving system.

The assessment was conducted by Public Consulting Group (PCG) and its partners and focused on two key goals: to understand how community-based services and placement capacity can be further enhanced for the population of youth affected by HB 517, and to understand the adequacy and alignment of the current ecosystem of interdependent partners and stakeholders to ensure a comprehensive, child and family-centered system that is more preventative, responsive and effective for all children, youth and families involved in the child welfare system. To achieve those goals, PCG sought input from a broad range of stakeholders to understand both the strengths and  gaps in the current child welfare and juvenile justice system.

Table 8: Total Child Protection Removals, 2014 – 2017 (N=1,976) NH DHHS

“Over the past 18 months, we have taken significant steps to rebuild New Hampshire’s DCYF system,” said Governor Chris Sununu. “This report will help us identify, understand, and address areas of need within our child welfare system. When it comes to the welfare of children we can never let ourselves become complacent. This week my administration is sending HHS officials to New Jersey to witness their nationally recognized system firsthand. I am confident that combined with the findings of the report, these firsthand accounts will help us continue to build a better system for New Hampshire’s children.”

Priority recommendations include adopting and expanding the principles of system of care that are currently in place; strengthening DCYF’s partnership with the Bureau for Children’s Behavioral Health; contracting with Medicaid managed care organizations to create and support a continuum of community-based services for youth with complex needs; ensuring adequate staffing; and leveraging federal funding available through the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018.

Supporting recommendations include improving data sharing among agencies; securing outcomes-based procurements and contracts; and expanding services for youth transitioning out of the child welfare system.

Read the full assessment report below: