Five Mental Health Focused Recently Released Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Action Briefs

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Pathways to Strong and Resilient Mental Health for Infants and Young Children

Recently, we released the fourth of the five-part Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Policy and Practice Action Toolkit to provide guidance for how policymakers, advocates, community non-profits, the business community, and other stakeholders can support the well-being of all North Carolina children with strategic, early-life investments. 

Eight years ago a broad tent of stakeholders from across North Carolina started meeting and developed NC’s Pathways to Grade-Level Reading (Pathways). Pathways stakeholders identified 44 Pathways Actions that provide evidence-based guidance for how policymakers, advocates, community non-profits, the business community, and other stakeholders can support the wellbeing of all NC children. These are the actions that we now advance through this five-part Pathways to Grade Level Reading Policy & Practice Actions Toolkit. Each part of the toolkit will provide evidence-informed guidance and recommended practices and also highlight organizations and initiatives across the state that are already taking action to move the needle.   

Take a closer look at each of the 2-page action briefs included in Part 4 of the toolkit. Each brief highlights an action that can foster an ecosystem that increases the likelihood that all infants and young children will be mentally healthy, while also attending to the additional needs of children growing up in adverse contexts.  

ACTION: Address Barriers in Health Insurance Coverage of Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health Services to Ensure Adequate Benefits. Families seeking services for a child with mental health needs often have more difficulty advocating for services through private insurance than on Medicaid. Most health insurance companies are required to provide mental health benefits, but there are no state or federal requirements that say that those offered by private companies must be equal to the benefits that Medicaid provides. The brief provides more on how ensuring that health insurance appropriately covers children’s mental health needs requires legislative specificity. Read this action brief >>> 

ACTION: Create a Mental Health Professional Development System to Recruit and Retain Infant and Toddler Mental Health Clinicians. Evidence-based care provided by qualified infant and early childhood mental health professionals are effective at improving young children’s mental health, especially for those who have experienced trauma. However, like all other states, North Carolina lacks enough mental health providers to meet the needs of the number of infants and toddlers who need support. North Carolina needs comprehensive policies that promote the training and retention of a range of mental health staff who can provide care along the full continuum of mental health care and services for children. This Includes those who focus on the promotion of healthy development, to prevention of illness, and treatment for children and families in crisis. Read this action brief >>> 

ACTION: Increase Professional Development in Mental Health Treatment for Pediatricians and Family Physicians. It’s estimated that one-quarter of pediatric primary care office visits in the U.S. involve a concern for behavioral and mental health problems. Although well-child visits to the pediatrician’s office are an excellent opportunity for implementing universal behavioral health screening, it doesn’t happen often enough because of lack of training and competency. Increasing the number of pediatricians who screen for behavioral and psychological challenges at well-child visits must be accompanied by increases in the number of infant and young child mental health service providers so that families can be referred to needed supports. Read this action brief >>> 

ACTION: Integrate Mental Health Providers with Pediatric and Other Primary Care Practices. Integrating mental and behavioral health services within primary care is an evidence-informed approach to addressing disparities in mental health. Integrated care settings are particularly important for reducing inequities in children’s access to behavioral care. This is because primary care providers practicing in neighborhoods with higher percentages of Black, Hispanic, and low-income families are less likely to have geographically proximate behavioral health professionals. As we increasingly understand the interconnections between physical and mental health, pediatric and primary care clinics are increasingly seen as optimal sites for the delivery of integrated care. Read this action brief >>> 

ACTION: Expand the NC Child Treatment Program. Training clinicians who specialize in child and adolescent mental health grounded in evidence-based treatment models is a key step in working to respond to the high numbers of infants and young children who express signs and symptoms of mental health challenges. Assessments of parents’ perceived barriers to receiving services for their children’s mental health problems found that the top barrier was lack of information about and availability of providers offering services. The NC Child Treatment Program is working to reduce this barrier by providing competency-driven training, clinical coaching, and implementation support across the state, with an emphasis on racial and geographic equity. Read this action brief >>> 

Keep in Touch with NCECF and Support Our Work

Learn more about the Pathways Action Map and consider adding your work to the map! Share it with others in your network and community, whose work you think should be spotlighted. We want to utilize the Map as a resource to build awareness of innovation, make connections, and identify gaps and opportunities that can help guide policy making, advocacy, funding, and capacity building.

If you have any questions, or would like a guided tour of the Pathways Action Map, please contact us. We’d love to hear your ideas on how to continue to utilize this tool to support the success of all North Carolina children.

Please be sure to subscribe to our biweekly newsletter and consider making a donation today to continue a strong 2024 by helping us transform the lives of North Carolina families, from their earliest days, while also supporting a small growing, family-friendly team. 

The NC Early Childhood Foundation is driven by a bold – and achievable – vision: Each North Carolina child has a strong foundation for life-long health, education, and well-being supported by a comprehensive, equitable birth-to-eight ecosystem. We build understanding, lead collaboration, and advance policies to ensure each North Carolina child is on track for lifelong success by the end of third grade.