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Virginia Advances Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Assessment, Diagnosis and Treatment

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This article summarizes key themes from Virginia’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.

ExCover of Exploring State StrategiesChildren’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 Virginia include:

  • In a section describing how states are promoting the use of DC:0-5TM (a diagnostic classification of mental health and developmental disorders of infancy and early childhood published by ZERO TO THREE), Virginia is highlighted for having a full-time state ECMH Coordinator funded by three state agencies to develop a comprehensive IECMH system. Efforts include support for the workforce through the IMH Endorsement and a series of IECMH trainings provided by the state infant mental health association, ECMH Virginia Initiative, and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Office of Continuing and Professional Education.
  • In a section focused on increasing the number of IECMH providers with the support of IECMH associations and credentials, Virginia’s work is described. Virginia funds three state agencies to develop a system for the IECMH workforce. A large portion of this work is focused on professionals who work with young children across disciplines obtaining infant mental health endorsement. There are 52 providers who are endorsed, and a fourth cohort of professionals is starting the endorsement process. The state is also offering IECMH training as part of collaboration between the infant mental health association and Virginia Commonwealth University.
  • In a section focused on building capacity for reflective supervision, Virginia’s collaboration between the Early Childhood Mental Health Virginia Initiative and Early Impact Virginia (a consortium of all home visiting programs in the state) is highlighted. Supervisors in home visiting programs have been participating in reflective supervision training provided by two infant mental health–endorsed clinicians. The training also includes key principles and practices of infant mental health to link knowledge with practice. The goal is to embed reflective practice and reflective supervision into home visiting programs as part of a home visitor’s ongoing supervision. This collaboration also ensures reflective supervision is received from a trained and endorsed home visiting program supervisor and meets the requirements for Virginia’s Infant Mental Health Endorsement for Categories I and II.

Learn more about how Virginia 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.

Virginia 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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