The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) announced Colorado is one of 12 sites chosen by the Center of Excellence for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation to receive expert support and a resource toolbox for infant and early childhood mental health consultation. The Center of Excellence is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Colorado's infant and early childhood mental health consultation program helps early childhood professionals and parents build their skills so that they are equipped to support children with challenging behaviors and to facilitate healthy social and emotional development in all children. The free and voluntary program has been statewide since 2006, and Colorado aims to use the Center of Excellence support and tools to make the statewide system more consistent, including in the areas of onboarding, training and support, and evaluation.
For the next three years, the Center of Excellence will provide Colorado with a technical assistance team from Georgetown University. The technical assistance team will meet at least monthly with Colorado's early childhood mental health team and a statewide advisory committee to share strategies, update progress, solve problems, identify resources and develop materials.
"Being chosen for technical assistance recognizes our long-standing focus on mental health consultation and child care," said Jordana Ash, early childhood mental health director at CDHS. "We have done great systems-building, and we provide high-quality local services. Now we have this fantastic opportunity to really propel our system forward. The assistance will give us targeted support and resources in areas that we've identified as needing work."
In the 2015 Colorado Child Health Survey on children ages 4 to 14, parents reported that 19.7 percent of children needed mental health care or counseling. Additional data from the same parent survey indicates that 24.7 percent of these children have difficulties with emotions, concentration, behavior or getting along with others.
The state has invested in infant and early childhood mental health consultation, known as IECMHC, over the last several years, most recently doubling the state-funded workforce to 34 positions in 2016. Those 34 positions, commonly referred to as early childhood mental health specialists, are hired by 14 mental health centers and four community-based organizations to provide IECMHC services statewide.
Colorado will use the technical assistance to:
* Evaluate Colorado's system of consultation, taking into account the wide diversity of implementation approaches
* Create a hub for resources that can be accessed by all consultants
* Address workforce capacity issues through partnership with higher education to successfully integrate IECMHC into curriculum
* Develop a successful outreach strategy to consistently communicate with all consultants across the state, including about ongoing needs assessments, growth and development of each consultant, and raising the visibility of IECMHC statewide