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Senator Hassan Introduces Portsmouth Youth Mental Health Expert as Hearing Witness & Highlights Youth Mental Health Crisis In NH

WASHINGTON – During a Senate Finance Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan introduced Jodie Lubarsky, Vice President for Clinical Operations for Youth and Family Services at the Seacoast Mental Health Center in Portsmouth, as one of the hearing witnesses. During the hearing, Senator Hassan highlighted the mental health workforce shortages in New Hampshire and pointed to creative ways to address youth mental health challenges. Today’s Finance Committee hearing is the second in a series to address the youth mental health crisis.


To watch Senator Hassan’s introduction of Jodie Lubarsky of Portsmouth, click here. To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.


At the start of the hearing, Senator Hassan introduced Lubarsky and discussed her work in the state to address youth mental challenges.


“To say she is at the frontlines of some of the toughest battles our children face would be an understatement,” Senator Hassan said. “In her role as Vice President and as a mental health counselor, Ms. Lubarsky provides support to young people who are experiencing mental health challenges. And she has seen firsthand how the pandemic and a shortage of mental health services has increased the number of patients in her center.”


During the hearing, Senator Hassan highlighted Lubarsky’s work to stand up an innovative program in New Hampshire to provide more support to children over the summer.  


“Mental health resources need to meet children where they are, and during the school year that’s in the classroom, but mental health doesn’t end when the school year does,” Senator Hassan said. “You’ve led an innovative program based on that insight working with the Community Behavioral Health Association and the state government, your clinic offered mental health training for camp counselors and provided on-site resources at summer camps throughout the state.”


Lubarsky responded that the program “was really a means to tackle the mental health needs of students after being isolated from their peers.”


She noted that the funding she received for this program was allowed to be carried into the school year and is now being used to host professional development days and youth mental health first aid training to educators.


Senator Hassan also questioned another witness at the hearing about what barriers are preventing schools from recruiting and retaining mental health providers. Dr. Sharon Hoover, Professor at the Division and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Co-Director of the National Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, discussed in part the need to hire a diverse staff that represents the population that they serve and investing more in peer and family navigators.


Senator Hassan has continuously brought youth mental health to the forefront as the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected students in New Hampshire and across the country. Earlier this month at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing, Senator Hassan read a letter from a Candia student who stated that mental health is not taken seriously enough in schools and workplaces. Last year, Senator Hassan cosponsored legislation to invest in the launch of a 3-digit National Sucide Prevention Lifeline, which was signed into law. Senator Hassan also visited Epping High School to discuss students’ social and emotional needs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the Senate recently passed bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Hassan and Joni Ernst (R-IA) to encourage the implementation of suicide prevention trainings in schools and communities across the country to help address the rising rate of youth suicide.