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Senator Hassan Holds Virtual Roundtable on Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Mental and Behavioral Health

NEW HAMPSHIRE – In case you missed it, Senator Maggie Hassan held a virtual roundtable yesterday with mental and behavioral health experts as Granite Staters cope with increased stress and anxiety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


Participants discussed the unique needs of children, as well as the impact the pandemic has had on veterans and those who are struggling with substance misuse.


Senator Hassan is working to bolster mental and behavioral health services, including for substance use disorder, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Hassan has joined her colleagues in calling for increased investments for mental and behavioral health services in the next COVID-19 package.


See below for coverage highlights:


WMUR: Sen. Maggie Hassan holds virtual discussion to highlight mental health impacts of pandemic

By Tim Callery


Sen. Maggie Hassan held a virtual roundtable with local experts to see what resources they need from Washington to help people cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Hassan has been pushing for increased investments in mental and behavioral health services in the next COVID-19 package. To get a sense of what exactly those services should be, Hassan held the virtual discussion with Granite State mental health experts on Monday.


“We know we need to provide more and to provide additional resources for those in need,” Hassan said. “We also are now in a place where we may be needing to help our staff in a different way.”


Interim President and CEO of Greater Nashua Mental Health Dr. Cynthia Whitaker said support for behavioral health professionals is crucial, so they can treat others effectively.


“We have staff that are wondering how they can do their job effectively,” Whitaker said. “Or, they’re trying to home-school their children and keep a job. Then, they’re trying to help other people who are facing that same challenge.”


Those shared struggles also increase effects of another crisis, the opioid epidemic.


“People with substance abuse disorder, it hits them particularly hard,” Director of addiction services at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health Dr. Luke Archibald said. “The isolation, the financial stress, loss of 12-step meetings, decreased access to healthy activities. All of these can put a person at risk.”


Experts said continued support for children also needs to be considered.


“As things open up, and then maybe close down again, those kinds of changes in the greatest of times are tough on kids,” Clinical Psychologist specializing in children Dr. Laura Landerman-Garber said.


AP: NH mental health providers concerned about kids during pandemic

By Holly Ramer


CONCORD — 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, education and expanded broadband to support telehealth.