NH Charitable Foundation invests In the future of Coos County

Northern Human Services announced that the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the N.H. Charitable Foundation has renewed its significant commitment to investing in early childhood in Coos County, by awarding $210,000 to the NHS Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Program for CY 2017.

Charlie Cotton, licensed clinical social worker and area director for Northern Human Services-Berlin/Gorham noted that “Research has established that a child’s future, and actual brain structure/chemistry is built in the first few years of life. We know how to support caregivers and the community to change lives. The foundation of our future in Coos County is being built now, one child at a time, thanks to the NHCF.”

The Tillotson Fund of the N.H. Charitable Foundation has worked with NHS for the past 11 years and supplied funding since 2009 to provide Coos County with mental health supports and services for young children and their families, who have suffered trauma, social emotional difficulties, behavioral challenges and difficulty being successful in preschool and community settings. This support has strengthened families and helped build community capacity, as a part of a sustained, countywide, multi-agency initiative.

In 2009, Northern Human Services served fewer than 10 children under the age of six in Coos County. Northern now serves well over one hundred forty young children and their families annually. Kassie Eafrati, director Early Childhood Mental Health Services noted that “Most children entering the program show improved developmental outcomes over the course of their involvement with NHS supports and services.”

Key aspects of the program include promoting parent-child attachment, use of research-based interventions/screenings, promoting positive family and caregiver mental health/ interactions, and collaboration with child care agencies and local preschools through the Tillotson-funded (NHCF) Coos Coalition for Young Children and Families (CCYCF). NHCF support has facilitated intensive treatment and community supports throughout Coos County, with local teams based in Berlin/Gorham, Colebrook/Groveton and Lancaster/Whitefield. Most importantly it has built community capacity and partnerships with parents and other community providers.

The NHS Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health program is focused on developing needs in Coos County. Current initiatives include the integration of mental health and developmental services for young children and families, imbedding substance abuse services in the early childhood program, and strengthening local consultations in support of children, child care programs, and preschools. Northern Human Services is committed to working collaboratively to help Coos County to be the best place in New Hampshire to raise a child.

Northern Human Services has provided quality mental health, substance abuse treatment/prevention, and developmental services to the residents of Northern New Hampshire for almost a half century, serving 4,000 individuals annually in 45 percent of the State of N.H. The mission of Northern Human Servcies is to assist and advocate for people affected by mental illness, developmental disabilities and related disorders in living meaningful lives (see www.northernhs.org).

They have learned, and research has proven, that the most effective treatment is prevention. Coos County struggles with high rates of poverty, substance abuse, child maltreatment, school failure, etc. Fortunately, they also know that the people of the North Country are committed and capable of doing whatever is needed to build a brighter future. The NHS, IMH program was developed based on research showing that positive early experiences and relationships shape the architecture of the developing brain, providing a sturdy foundation for all the learning and development to follow. A child’s brain develops rapidly during infancy and the early preschool years. Most thinking, reasoning and language skills are hardwired into our brains by the time they are three to five years old. The ability of the families and communities to build a safe, nurturing and stimulating environment for young children is critical for a child’s future. Fortunately, treatment for mental illness is effective throughout their life times. It is estimated that 70 percent of individuals who engage in treatment report reduced symptoms. Despite this, prevention is still the most effective treatment and research has proven that infancy is the best time to intervene.

The Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the N.H. Charitable Foundation has provided continued, strong support of early childhood issues, Coos County generally, and in particular the Northern Human Servcies Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Program, and its collaborative work with the Coos Coalition for Young Children and Families. Learn more at www.investincooskids.com.

NHCF Award Charlie Cotton (right), licensed clinical social worker and area director for Northern Human Services – Berlin Region with Kassie Eafrati, MA, director of NHS, Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health program, holding $210,000 check from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. (COURTESY PHOTO)