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New Hampshire Senate Passes Bill for State Park Passes to Aid Recovery and Mental Health Centers

The New Hampshire Senate approved a bill on Wednesday that will see the implementation of a three-year pilot program providing state park passes to recovery and community mental health centers. 

The initiative, encapsulated in Senate Bill 387, is expected to offer a new dimension of therapeutic outdoor experiences to those in need.

Sponsored by Dover Democrat Sen. David Watters, the bill specifically targets centers that are registered with the Department of Health and Human Services, making them eligible to receive one or more state park passes. This legislative action underscores a growing recognition of the therapeutic benefits of nature and outdoor activities in the recovery and mental health sectors.

New Hampshire, known for its 93 state park properties, including parks, campgrounds, beaches, historical sites, and recreational trails, offers a unique backdrop for this initiative. 

The program grants unlimited access to the majority of these sites, although it excludes certain attractions such as the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, Flume Gorge, Hampton Beach State Park South, and Wallis Sands State Park, along with campsites and metered parking.

A New Hampshire Bulletin report highlighted that the bill’s passage follows compelling testimony during its public hearing in January, where Holly Stevens, director of public policy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) New Hampshire, presented overwhelming evidence on the positive impact of outdoor activities. Stevens highlighted how nature-based interventions, including forest therapies, have been shown to significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety across various populations, notably those with severe mental illnesses.

Stevens also pointed out that in 2022, the state’s 10 community mental health centers served more than 60,000 individuals, emphasizing the broad scope of potential beneficiaries under the new program. This statistic not only reflects the pressing need for innovative therapeutic approaches but also the potential for significant positive outcomes through the integration of outdoor activities into treatment and recovery plans.

On the financial side, Sen. Regina Birdsell, a Republican from Hampsted, noted that the bill is projected to have a minimal fiscal impact, costing less than $10,000 per fiscal year over the course of the pilot program. This cost-effective measure requires participating centers to report annually on the usage and impact of the passes, ensuring accountability and the evaluation of the program’s effectiveness.

Sen. Watters, in a statement following the vote, emphasized the critical need for a comprehensive strategy to address the ongoing crisis of substance use disorders and mental health issues across New Hampshire. He highlighted SB 387 as a key component of such a strategy, pointing to extensive research that supports the benefits of outdoor activities for individuals in recovery and those struggling with mental health challenges.

For New Hampshire’s outdoor recreation industry, the program represents a valuable opportunity to increase engagement with state parks and recreational sites. By facilitating access for a wider and more diverse group of visitors, the initiative could lead to increased visitation and awareness of the state’s natural assets. This, in turn, could have positive economic implications for the industry, including potential growth in related sectors such as outdoor equipment and services.

Moreover, the program’s focus on therapeutic outdoor experiences aligns with a growing trend in the recreation industry towards promoting wellness and mental health. As such, it could serve as a model for similar initiatives in other states, highlighting New Hampshire’s leadership in integrating outdoor recreation with health and wellness strategies.

Featured image by Crawford Notch State Park via nhstateparks.org

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Joseph Wright
Joseph Wright
February 25, 2024 11:39 am

This step by the New Hampshire Senate stands out for prioritizing mental health and recovery through free state park passes for recovery and mental health centers. Such a thoughtful move! It’s truly heartening to see the recognition of nature’s positive impact on those seeking mental health support. This program could be a game-changer, offering solace and healing through the beauty of our state parks. A commendable initiative!

Richard Anderson
Richard Anderson
February 25, 2024 12:08 pm

Isn’t it remarkable how New Hampshire is embracing nature’s healing power for mental health support? This initiative not only promotes well-being but also deepens our connection to the natural world, offering a holistic path to healing. Integrating state park passes into recovery programs shows a forward-thinking understanding of nature’s therapeutic benefits. It’s exciting to see such innovative approaches shaping mental health care.

February 25, 2024 7:31 pm

It’s truly heartening to see how New Hampshire is recognizing nature’s therapeutic influence. Did you know nature can reduce cortisol levels, helping to lower stress and anxiety?

February 25, 2024 3:24 pm

Isn’t it great that NH is providing park passes to aid mental health recovery through nature therapy? It’s a positive step!

March 20, 2024 7:53 pm

Isn’t it wonderful news? State park passes for mental health centers, guided nature walks, and outdoor therapy in the mix! Partnerships with recreation groups add extra support, making recovery journeys meaningful.


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Hi, you might find this article from Modern Campground interesting: New Hampshire Senate Passes Bill for State Park Passes to Aid Recovery and Mental Health Centers! This is the link: https://moderncampground.com/usa/new-hampshire/new-hampshire-senate-passes-bill-for-state-park-passes-to-aid-recovery-and-mental-health-centers/