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Social workers are raising awareness about the new mobile crisis centers and an Access Point call center now providing 24/7 call, chat or community-based services for Granite Staters facing a mental-health crisis.

New Hampshire’s mental-health services have been seeing workforce shortages in recent years, which has resulted in people in crisis waiting days at the emergency room for a placement.

Becky Parton, project director for the Dartmouth Trauma Interventions Research Center and a member of the National Association of Social Workers, said the new mobile centers, also known as Rapid Response Teams, seek to connect folks directly with care. She said some people may only need a call with a clinician to help de-escalate their situation, while others will still need to go to the emergency room for inpatient care.

“But there are other levels of care that we can provide, which is one of the great things about this,” Parton asserted. “Ultimately the goal is to keep people out of waiting in the emergency room when they don’t have to and being able to serve them in the community.”

The Rapid Response Access Point can be reached at 833-710-6477 or Residents can visit nh988.com to chat with trained professionals. Parton noted it is also part of a national effort.

New Hampshire’s 10-year mental health plan put these mobile crisis centers into action, and also expanded mental health services for children in the state.

Parton hopes the Access Point can be an alternative to calling the police. She pointed out people facing mental health crises are more likely to experience police violence, and police are not always well-trained in de-escalation.

“They may assume criminal intent, versus being able to de-escalate someone and figure out if there’s a mental health reason why they had to be called,” Parton explained. “So the goal would be that, long term, we’ve reduced the need for police assistance unless there was a real safety issue.”

She added groups are providing training to law enforcement to help them improve.

Parton Stressed while these Rapid Response Teams are a great addition to available services, many of the community organizations and agencies facilitating them are still struggling to retain staff. She emphasized support for recruitment and retention is needed.

“It’s unfortunate, but we don’t have good reimbursement rates for providers,” Parton contended. “We need to have better pay in general, which would help retain more staff. Community health centers already don’t have enough state funding to adequately run the programs they are tasked with supporting.”

Disclosure: NASW New Hampshire Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Poverty Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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