WASHINGTON (October 6, 2021) – ZERO TO THREE, the nation’s leading early childhood nonprofit dedicated to the health and well-being of babies and toddlers, announced today a $4.6 million, three-year grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to expand its HealthySteps program and advocate for local and national policies and financing to improve early childhood development outcomes.
Babies and their families in Los Angeles County will be the primary beneficiaries of this substantial grant to expand HealthySteps, a unique, national pediatric primary care program. At least six new HealthySteps sites will be designated through an application process, and it is expected that the Hilton Foundation grant will enable the program to serve more than 12,000 Los Angeles County young children and their families starting late spring 2022.
HealthySteps adds early childhood development experts, known as HealthySteps Specialists, to the pediatric primary care team. HealthySteps Specialists identify whether children ages 0-3 are reaching developmental milestones, help connect families to additional services, and answer families’ questions about child development and well-being so all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life. HealthySteps has demonstrated improvements in access to preventive care for children, rates of immunization completion, coordination of care, child social-emotional health and safety, developmentally appropriate parenting, and maternal mental health.
“The combined impact of the Hilton Foundation grant and the state benefit means that HealthySteps will not only gain an important foothold in Los Angeles County, but also provide a blueprint for expansion into other counties as the state benefit kicks in,” says Christina Nigrelli, ZERO TO THREE California Senior Director of Programs.
Currently, the program reaches more than 355,000 babies and toddlers nationwide, 70% of whom are served by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. HealthySteps has grown rapidly across the country in the last four years with 199 sites in 25 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The growth of the program in California has been particularly robust, with a 97% growth rate in four years.
“At a national level, the California expansion mirrors HealthySteps’ exponential growth in states like New York and Colorado,” says HealthySteps National Director and clinical psychologist Rahil Briggs. “Most importantly, this grant and the new Medi-Cal benefit will allow us to close health equity gaps by laying the groundwork for the 500,000 children under age 5 in Los Angeles County and the more than 1.4 million babies in California, two-thirds of whom are children of color, to have access to HealthySteps services,” Briggs added.
The generous Hilton Foundation grant comes on the heels of a new Medi-Cal Dyadic Services benefit approved as part of the California state budget. Modeled after HealthySteps, the benefit would pay for family therapy for children who may have a mental health diagnosis, as well as children without a diagnosis but who may be at risk for later concerns. This is a profound commitment to family-based prevention, as young children and their caregivers would receive preventive behavioral health care simultaneously, without a required diagnosis. The California action dovetails with President Biden’s call for a major expansion to access for HealthySteps-like early childhood development experts in his FY 2022 budget proposal.