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July 24. 2013 9:27PM

Funds restored for program to aid at-risk children

CONCORD — Problem children will again be eligible for state services under a bill signed by Gov. Maggie Hassan.

The Children in Need of Services program was eliminated in the 2012-2013 budget for all but the most dangerous youths.“Through the budget process, we worked to rebuild and restore funding for the Children in Need of Services program, which is critical to helping our at-risk young people and keeping our communities safe,” said Hassan in a statement.

“By strengthening this program and other important pieces of our support system for troubled youth, House Bill 260 will help keep New Hampshire one of the safest states in the nation and allow more children to fulfill their potential.”After much of the program was eliminated two years ago, school districts, law enforcement and parents complained they had no resources to help the at-risk youth who were once served under the program.

Under HB 260, people who would have gone to court under the original program would first participate in the voluntary program, with services provided through the Department of Health and Human Services.The services would be school or community-based, not the more expensive residential services. And the services could be suspended if the department runs out of money.

The bill expands the definition of a child in need of services and establishes the voluntary program. However, it allows parents, school officials, truant officers and law enforcement to petition a judge to order treatment for a child if the voluntary program is not successful.

Under the bill, young people have to be placed in the least restrictive environment and need a court order determining the child is dangerous to be sent to the youth development center at the John H. Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester.

The bill also would have youths released from the center after six months unless a court determines the person still poses a danger to himself or herself or others.

The reinstated program begins in September and serves young people with severe emotional or mental health issues, juvenile delinquents, truants and runaways.

The bill also establishes a study community to review the best use of the Sununu Center in light of its declining enrollment in recent years.

grayno@unionleader.com


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