Sununu to sign child protection, mental health bill

Jun 14, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

On Wednesday, June 14 Governor Chris Sununu will sign a bill that aims to increase protections for children and people with mental illness in New Hampshire.

The bill, HB 400, adds a new category to reports of child abuse.  A founded report has definite evidence of child abuse or neglect.  An unfounded report does not have enough evidence.  The new category, “unfounded but with reasonable concern,” is somewhere in the middle.  This new category of reports will be kept on file for seven years, the same as founded reports.

The bill allows DHHS to send a letter to parents encouraging them to seek services if there is a report “unfounded but with reasonable concern.”

The bill also requires DHHS to conduct an administrative review of all reports of child abuse in a household if there are ever three or more reports – founded or unfounded.

To protect citizens with mental illness, HB 400 requires DHHS to develop a ten-year plan for the state’s mental health system.  It also requires DHHS to develop a plan to ensure the due process rights of patients who are involuntarily committed to the state hospital, and another plan to relocate twenty-four minors who are at the state hospital.

After the House and Senate passed HB 400, Gov. Sununu said, “Improving our state’s mental health system and reforming DCYF [Division of Children, Youth and Families] are not options. They are not areas that we have the luxury of putting off for another day. They are absolute necessities that our state must address immediately. This legislation is a critical step forward.” 

Some legislators argued that without funding, HB 400 will not make enough of an impact on New Hampshire’s child protection and mental health systems.  For example, the bill does not include any funds for services to parents. 

Meanwhile DHHS is already failing to meet the requirements of a 2012 lawsuit settlement to increase community mental health treatment options, due in part to a lack of funding.

Do you support HB 400?  Share your thoughts on the bill in the comments below.

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