NH Public Policy
New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies

Children's Mental Health in New Hampshire

Executive Summary

Date: September 1st, 2007

This paper is one of a series of reports commissioned to inform policy-makers about the status of mental health in New Hampshire. This analysis is designed to answer basic questions about the mental health status of New Hampshire’s children through an assessment of mental health prevalence estimates and an analysis of service use in the public Medicaid and privately insurance systems. The first section of the report analyzes national prevalence estimates.   The second section of the report analyzes service use in the Medicaid and private sectors.
It is estimated that nationally 14 million children – approximately one in five – have a diagnosable mental health disorder.  Eleven percent of children have significant functional impairment[1], and five percent of children have extreme functional impairment – issues that impede their ability to learn, to form social connections, and to function in a family.[2] 
If New Hampshire is consistent with the rest of the nation, these estimates of prevalence would translate to 55,756 children, ages 5-19 that would have a diagnosable mental health disorder and almost 14,000 of 9-17 year olds would have a serious emotional disturbance.[3] These estimates have important implications for the behavioral health system, the child welfare system, and the education system across the state.
In addition to prevalence, service use and access are also an important consideration when discussing the scope of mental health issues impacting children as well as the geographic and demographic characteristics that may impact treatment engagement.  Over 19,000 - or 12% - of the privately insured children showed evidence of a mental illness diagnosis and/or treatment in 2005. In the Medicaid program, 25% - or 17,680 children - received services for a mental illness during that same time period. These data show only the prevalence of mental health disorders among the children who accessed services, and they should be viewed within the context of the overall prevalence estimates presented.
Much of the variation across the public and private systems raises important questions about the differences in how these populations are served. Further research is needed to determine if the prevalence and services provided for these children are truly different, and what implications there are for the behavioral health system.

[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General—Children and Mental Health. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, 1999. Hereafter referred to as, Surgeon General’s Report, 1999.
[2] U.S. Public Health Service. Report of the Surgeon General’s Conference on Children’s Mental Health: A National Action Agenda. Washington, DC. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000.
[3] Based on 2005 population estimates, NH Office of Energy and Planning.

Report File