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Waypoint Advocacy – Highlights 2020 Legislative Session
This report reflects the status of bills at the end of the 2020 Session of the New Hampshire Legislature, and includes actions taken by the Governor at that time.
Waypoint has proactively engaged with key staffs of the New Hampshire Congressional delegation regarding needs stemming from the public health crisis and the impact of the various CARES legislation. Waypoint attended daily meetings of the various committees dedicated to distribution of the $1.25 M discretionary CARES funding received by New Hampshire. Waypoint also attended daily meetings of Re-Open New Hampshire, the committee determining appropriate metrics to re-open New Hampshire businesses and attractions. These meetings availed us to opportunities such as the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and to prepare for business requirements related to the re-opening. The PPP permitted Waypoint to continually employ its staff, who adapted services as possible to continue helping those in need while abiding by CDC guidelines.
The COVID-19 virus has impacted the New Hampshire Legislature as it has impacted communities and governments around the World. Since the Legislature was in recess from mid-March until early June, deadlines for acting on bills expired. While the Senate extended their deadlines, the House was unable to do so. Without extending deadlines, all bills in the House needed two thirds of votes cast for passage. All bills failed to reach this threshold and the bills effectively died. The Senate chose to utilize the bills in their possession to create omnibus bills, including many of the topics killed by the House. These bills represent the work of Waypoint during the Legislative session. The Legislature passed all but one of Waypoint’s priority bills.
Child Protection/Juvenile Justice
The omnibus bill related to child protection and juvenile justice is HB1162. The bill includes 13 pieces of legislation and passed with strong bipartisan support. We worked with the Governor’s Office to advocate for the bill, engaging allies to do the same. These allies include: National Association of Social Workers, American Civil Liberties Union, Disability Rights Center and New Hampshire Legal Assistance. The bill was signed by the Governor.
The priority bills included in the HB1162 omnibus legislation, with brief descriptions:
• HB1233 relative to coverage for children's early intervention services: Assures that insurers pay providers for services delivered, up to the cap imposed by the State, currently $9,200 per child, per year. The bill assures that providers receive full payment from DHHS and insurance companies.
• HB1249 Expand juvenile legal representation: This bill ensures legal representation for children throughout their involvement in the juvenile justice system. This will hopefully result in fewer and shorter incarcerations. This provision was implemented on an emergency basis during the pandemic. The legislation makes the practice statutory.
• HB1597 Prioritize children at SYSC for early discharge: This bill prioritizes children in juvenile incarceration for assessment and engagement in community-based treatment, as opposed to institutional treatment.
• HB1657 Eliminate parental reimbursement for court ordered placement: Children should not go without services due to a parent’s inability to pay. Based on department estimates, the State spends more money for attempted collection than it receives.
• HB1707 expanding the family-centered early supports and services program to children under the age of three who are born substance-exposed: Substance exposed children are only eligible for this service if they are born substance dependent. However, all children with substance exposure experience similar impacts during their formative years. This bill provides early intervention services to assure children meet developmental milestones.
• SB295 relative to the office of the child advocate: This bill recodifies the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) statute that Waypoint worked to create in 2017. The bill also expands the scope of the OCA to examine any State operated or contracted services to children, and to initiate subsequent investigations as appropriate. This includes the Department Health and Human Services (DHHS) as well as the Department of Education (DOE).
• SB549 relative to the rebuttable presumption of harm under the child protection act: This is a bill that Waypoint initially opposed. However, we were able to work with DHHS to improve this bill to better protect children, while assuring reasonable precautions for parents and care takers. The bill presumes abuse and neglect under limited circumstances, such as aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle, or physical violence toward another when a child is present.
Exclusionary School Discipline
• HB677 Limit exclusionary discipline and provide funding for behavioral interventions: The bill limits the duration of suspensions and the length of consecutive suspensions in schools and directs funding to implement the Multi-Tiered System of Supports, which utilizes positive engagement with students to pre-empt more serious behavioral disturbances. This bill was signed by the Governor.
Supervised Visitation Centers (SVC)
Waypoint succeeded in securing funding through the State budget in 2019. However, DHHS had not issued contracts, and Waypoint had been unable to secure the promised funding. As a result, the Waypoint SVC ceased operations to New Hampshire residents in early 2020.
Choices for Independence (CFI)
CFI is available for seniors and adults with chronic illnesses who are financially eligible for Medicaid, and qualify for the level of care provided in nursing facilities. Waypoint has undertaken an ambitious project to understand the data, advocate with candidates, and develop champions for this program moving forward. The primary issue is to increase reimbursement for the program to reflect costs. We have requested data from DHHS as we suspect clients are under-served due to these rates.
Working with the NH Office of Child Advocate, Waypoint has spearheaded a group focused on data analysis. The focus is on the Juvenile Justice system to understand client demographics and look for factors that predict involvement in the Juvenile Justice system. The draft data dictionary is complete and the committee plans to begin analyzing data in the fall.
We have begun considering priorities for the 2021 session which we will finalize in the fall of 2020. As a budget year, state budget oversight and advocacy will be a major component of Waypoint’s work in 2021.
If you have questions about this report, want to help advocate for New Hampshire children and families, and our most vulnerable populations, please feel free to reach out to Keith Kuenning, email@example.com or John DeJoie, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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