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New Mexico Advances Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Assessment, Diagnosis and Treatment

This article summarizes key themes from New Mexico’s role in a convening of states and jurisdictions centered around improving state policies supporting Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

Cover of resourceChildren’s earliest experiences impact their brain formation and in turn, their social and emotional, physical, cognitive, communication, and sensory and motor skills development. Recognizing the tremendous opportunities and risks associated with this critical time, states are increasingly investing in promoting infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH), defined as the capacity of a child from birth to age five to experience, express and regulate emotions; form close, secure interpersonal relationships; and explore his/her environment and learn, all within the context of family and cultural expectations. ZERO TO THREE released two papers in 2018 and 2019 highlighting strategies states are employing to support children’s IECMH. Highlights from New Mexico include:

  • In sections on including DC:0-5™ (a diagnostic classification of mental health and developmental disorders of infancy and early childhood published by ZERO TO THREE) in cross-sector IECMH workforce development, New Mexico’s multiple investments are highlighted. Through state general funds, the New Mexico Department of Children, Youth, and Families has provided no-cost trainings in Albuquerque and Las Cruces on DC:0–5 to multiple agencies and clinicians. New Mexico also has a case consultation network where clinicians discuss recent cases where they have used DC:0–5. They also have integrated DC:0–5 into the skill development and clinical process for all state-funded IECMH teams working with children in foster care, as well as Parent Infant Psychotherapy clinicians. In these programs, DC:0–5 is one of several tools used to inform clinical case formulation, treatment objectives, and discharge planning. DC:0–5 also provides the New Mexico IECMH teams with an overarching summative classification system to determine effective intervention approaches.
  • In a section about developing and disseminating resources to help providers use the DC:0–5 for eligibility determination, treatment planning, and billing purposes, New Mexico’s work on this is highlighted. New Mexico’s Medicaid policy requires an ICD-10 code to establish medical necessity, but many trained mental health providers use the DC:0–5 and crosswalk to ICD-10 codes so that they have an early childhood-appropriate diagnosis for treatment planning as well as a connection to a recognized eligibility code.
  • In a section on Using DC:0-5 for Developmentally Appropriate Eligibility Determination and Billing, New Mexico, is highlighted for allowing providers to conduct multiple visits with a child before establishing a diagnosis.
  • In a section about supporting cross-agency work, New Mexico’s work is highlighted. New Mexico supports a collaborative on clinical policy that includes the Department of Children, Youth and Families, Medicaid, Behavioral Health, and the University of New Mexico. They all come together in order to form policy. “It’s the best thing ever!” said a member of the New Mexico team. They also are creating strategic plans for infants and young children within and across all departments. This work builds upon previous successful collaboration that integrated behavioral health with human services.

Learn more about how New Mexico and other states are promoting IECMH in Advancing Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health: The Integration of DC:0–5™ Into State Policy and Systems and Exploring State Strategies for Financing Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment.

New Mexico is one of twenty states and jurisdictions participating in ZERO TO THREE’s IECMH Financing Policy Project that supports states in improving IECMH policy and practice, with a focus on financing.


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