New Hampshire DOE provides funding to assist summer camps

By Danielle Ray
August 6th, 2022
Nottingham Parks & Recreation is one of the entities to benefit from DOE funding and partner with Seacoast Mental Health to meet the needs of youth.
Nottingham Parks & Recreation is one of the entities to benefit from DOE funding and partner with Seacoast Mental Health to meet the needs of youth.

Pandemic related issues and long-term effects are known to be far reaching and include mental health particularly in youth. The New Hampshire Department of Education (DOE) is addressing the issue with $500,000 in grant funding for summer camps across the state to utilize by bringing on mental health clinicians and providing access to relevant resources through recipient organizations.

The grant enables each of the state’s 10 community mental health centers to provide clinicians for summer camps and programs to help in a variety of ways such as training staff before kids arrive, working with campers in small groups or individually, or being on-call for difficult situations.

“I am pleased we are able to partner with the Department of Education to bring much needed resources to children attending the state’s summer camps,” said New Hampshire Community Behavioral Health Association (NHCBHA) Executive Director Roland Lamy, one of the centers. “Youth mental health needs continue to grow, especially transitioning from the pandemic.”

Lamy said the rise of mental health needs across all populations is more prevalent in children, and the grant program is a way to tactically address those needs.

“Partnering with the DOE and with summer camps provides an opportunity for our teams to meet children in the community where they are this summer, stay connected, provide assistance and training to camp counselors, and assist in transitioning children back to the schools this fall,” he said.

“The more connectivity our teams have, the better the outcomes. Our Community Mental Health Centers are fortunate to have this opportunity to work with children across our state and to do so in collaboration with community partners like the summer camp programs,” he added.

Reid Van Keulen, director of camping services for YMCA Camp Lincoln in Kingston, New Hampshire, said Seacoast Mental Health Center, which provides high quality and accessible mental health and substance use disorder services for all ages and stages of need, has received grant funding and as a result, they have been able to utilize their services.

“It’s been a great partnership,” Van Keulen said of the relationship with Seacoast. “They have completed two trainings for our staff and provided onsite support for campers that might need a little more assistance to be successful at camp.”

He said that since the pandemic, they have witnessed an increase in mental health issues with campers and this support is needed “more than ever.”

“We’ve been able to accommodate more kids that otherwise might struggle with the structure and independence at camp. It has also taken some of the stress off of our counselors, so we are seeing less burnout. Overall, it’s been a huge success having this partnership and we hope this can continue for many more summers moving forward,” Van Keulen said.

Nottingham Parks & Recreation Assistant Director Bridget Hart said Seacoast “has been an incredible free resource we have been able to integrate into our staff training as well as our general population of camp.”

“Youth mental health is incredibly important,” she said, noting that the recreation department features many youth programs in which at risk behaviors have increased over the last two years.

“We have limited to no resources as a municipality but have the same challenges to face that school systems and childcare do… We don’t have a school nurse or guidance counselors; we are the nurse, the guidance counselor, the principal,” she noted.

She said that in addition to youth participants, the hiring pool includes 14- and 15-year-olds who have also been affected by the pandemic. “Although we love the opportunity to be the introduction into the working world for the young staff we hire, it adds another layer on top of our job.”

Hart said some campers need the tools they are learning in the sessions with Seacoast, including coping skills, healthy relationships, and emotional regulation, “but not necessarily to the extent of having their own counselor so if we didn’t offer this resource, some of these kids wouldn’t be learning these skills.”

She expressed gratitude to the staff and lessons Seacoast Mental Health has offered the community and hopes the relationship continues.

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