Policy Resource

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

May 17, 2019

This article summarizes key themes from Alabama'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.

Children’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 Alabama include:

  • In a section focused on building capacity for reflective supervision, Alabama is highlighted for piloting a learning collaborative aimed at building capacity to add reflective supervision to IECMH consultation and training. From the first collaborative, a workgroup was formed to explore existing resources from which to grow the capacity of reflective supervision providers.
  • In a section focused on using the DC:0-5™ (a diagnostic classification of mental health and developmental disorders of infancy and early childhood published by ZERO TO THREE) for developmentally appropriate eligibility determination and billing, Alabama’s work is highlighted. Alabama Medicaid has agreed to support the IMH and ECMH Endorsement of mental health professionals by requiring those who treat children and families, birth through age five, to be endorsed in order to bill for services. This plan will be phased in over a three-year period, giving the state time to build reflective supervision capacity. Additionally, Alabama is working to develop a guidance document to be used by any professional working with children birth through age five. The document will help professionals understand how to bill for mental health services, not just through Medicaid, but through private insurance and Alabama’s children’s health insurance program as well. It will also crosswalk the DC:0-5 with DSM-5, ICD-10, and CPT codes.
  • In a section focused on supporting cross-agency work, Alabama’s work to develop a system of IECMH within the state is highlighted. Alabama is working to develop a system of IECMH within the state by leading collaboration efforts with the state’s Departments of Mental Health, Early Childhood Education, and others.
  • In a section focused on integrating IECMH within primary care, home visiting, child care, early intervention, child welfare, and related fields, Alabama’s work is highlighted. As part of the Project LAUNCH grant, Alabama began a pilot project in 2018 that involves the integration of an IECMH consultant within one pediatric practice one to two days a week for nine to 12 months.

Learn more about how Alabama 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.

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