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Congress Poised to Pass Mental Health Reform–Including a Focus on Infants and Toddlers

Aug 12, 2016

Congress is getting close to the passage of federal law that recognizes that babies’ mental health matters!

In July, the House of Representatives passed comprehensive mental health reform legislation along bipartisan lines, including a provision to invest in infant and early childhood mental health. In March, similar legislation was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and it now must be considered by the full Senate.

The provision addresses the need for mental health prevention, intervention, and treatment programs specifically for very young children. While the provision was not originally included in the draft mental health reform legislation in either the House or Senate, ZERO TO THREE worked with infant mental health advocates around the country to spearhead the effort to add the critical measure, developing legislative language, providing comments on drafts, and mobilizing advocates to contact key Congressional offices. Its inclusion underscores the need to focus comprehensive mental health reform where the foundations of strong mental health are laid–with young children, starting from birth.

The infant and early childhood mental health provision added to the bill would:

  • Award grants to develop, maintain, or enhance infant and early childhood mental health prevention, intervention, and treatment programs.
  • Ensure that funded programs are grounded in evidence and are culturally and linguistically appropriate.
  • Allow funds to support:
    • age-appropriate preventive, early intervention, or treatment services;
    • training for infant and early childhood mental health clinicians to integrate with other providers who work with young children and families;
    • training for mental health clinicians in infant and early childhood mental health; and
    • mental health consultation to early care and education programs.

The ZERO TO THREE Policy Center will keep you updated on Senate timing and future opportunities to take action!

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