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New Hampshire targets child, domestic abuse during pandemic

April 1, 2020 GMT

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire is spending $2.6 million to target crimes committed behind closed doors during the coronavirus pandemic. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu on Wednesday announced $2 million to help the state respond to and prevent child abuse, and $600,000 for programs serving victims of domestic violence.

Developments across the state:

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CHILD PROTECTION

Sununu announced $2 million for the Division of Children, Youth and Families to expand the work of part-time family violence prevention specialists to full-time, to hire new drug and alcohol counselors and to expand a program that helps parents with substance use disorders. It also will be used for a new family hotline and technology that allows families to participate remotely in agency programs.

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Moira O’Neill, director of the Office of the Child Advocate, said home confinement and disrupted routines likely have increased common stresses known to contribute to child abuse, such as economic insecurity and limited access to medical and mental health help.

Referrals to the Division of Children, Youth and Families hotline have been halved in recent weeks with children “out of school and out of sight,” she said. Both she and the governor urged residents to keep an eye out for possible abuse and neglect.

“While calls have gone down, that doesn’t mean abuse has stopped. Everyone, whether you’re a store clerk, a mailman, a neighbor or a relative, everyone has the responsibility of reporting child abuse,” Sununu said.

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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Reports of domestic violence also have dropped in recent weeks, Sununu said, but the need to support victims is increasing. The $600,000 in emergency funding he announced will be used by crisis centers to help survivors with groceries, rent, temporary housing and other needs.

The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence said the money likely will save lives at a time when victims are under intense pressure due to isolation, stay-at-home requirements and the pandemic’s financial impact.

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THE NUMBERS

More than 400 people in New Hampshire have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Four people have died, and more than 50 have been hospitalized.

For most people, it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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GROUP HOME INFECTIONS

An adult resident of a New Hampshire group home for people with disabilities has died because of complications from COVID-19, and several other residents and staff members have tested positive.

Officials with the Crotched Mountain Foundation in Greenfield said Wednesday that the 46-year-old man who died Sunday had significant disabilities and a history of respiratory complications. Two other group home clients and three staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“The Crotched Mountain family mourns the loss of one of our residents,” said Ned Olney, the foundation’s president and CEO. “As an individual with a challenging medical profile he was particularly susceptible to the insidiousness of this virus. Together we grieve and remain vigilant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

In addition to the group home, the nonprofit foundation operates a day and residential school for children with disabilities and provides autism services, accessible sports programs and case management services for seniors and adults.