NH Voices: Mobile crisis service for NH children

As an educator, counselor, mother, and citizen, I have experienced over and over again just how difficult it is for children in crisis to receive the support they need in a timely and humane way. When a child shares suicidal thoughts with me, my best response (as things are now) is to notify a parent (who may or may not take action to seek help for their child.)

Even the most responsive parents with resources and the wherewithal to call around to different counseling agencies are often put on wait lists of up to 6 months. If a parent takes a child to an emergency department (ED), they may wait days for a hospital bed and experience major disruption in their lives while the child is in the ED and then eventually in a hospital. Children are taken from the ED to a psychiatric hospital in an ambulance or police cruiser — oftentimes in handcuffs. All these activities are expensive, disruptive, and potentially traumatizing.

In New Jersey MRSS (Mobile Response and Stabilization Services) is fully implemented for children. This has led to a virtual zero rate of hospitalization of children experiencing mental health crises. Children receive services in their communities: at their home or in a residential crisis stabilization center. If a child shares suicidal thoughts with a school counselor, for example, that child receives local and immediate intervention from a two-person crisis team that is on call.

These services happen immediately and locally. The team consists of professionals and paraprofessionals who officer crisis intervention and peer support. They serve as first responders who work to resolve the crisis, connect children with resources, and avoid future crises, averting the need for psychiatric inpatient treatment. The goal is to address the mental health need while keeping the child in the community, at home and in school if possible. This would mean the lives of children and parents would be far less disrupted.

In addition, MRSS saves money! According to a 2014 SAMHSA study titled, Crisis Services: Effectiveness, Cost-Effectiveness, and Funding Strategies, researchers found that mobile crisis intervention services can reduce costs associated with inpatient hospitalization by 79% over a six-month follow-up period after the crisis episode.

New Hampshire is facing an opioid crisis, a mental health crisis, and a child welfare crisis. All acutely impact childrens’ development. New Hampshire children are the future of our state and they deserve better. It is our duty to address these problems head-on, using evidence-based solutions that we know are effective.

Please fully fund and implement MRSS to provide mental health crisis stabilization services where and when children need them.

Click here to read the Opinion Editorial in the Union Leader.