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Citing Child Mental Health Crisis, N.H. Senators Push For Legislation

New Hampshire Senate Democrats are pushing for bills they say would address the growing crisis of children awaiting psychiatric care in the state's hospitals.

That number has increased to historic levels during the pandemic in New Hampshire and across the United States.

In a virtual conference on Thursday, Senator Tom Sherman, of Rye, described a recent tour of a local hospital.

"Children were along the walls in the emergency room like we’ve seen after a hurricane, like we’ve seen after a major crisis in other towns and cities,” he said. “But this is in New Hampshire, and these children are lying there waiting for beds - in mental health crisis.”

Sherman’s bill, SB70, would require insurance companies to cover the initial costs and services without prior authorization for children in "psychiatric distress."

Another, SB157, would give the state health department another year to use about $13 million in unspent funds. This money was set aside in 2019 to improve children's access to mental health services. That bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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