Policy Resource

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

May 17, 2019

This article summarizes key themes from Alaska'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 Alaska include:

  • In a section focused on the importance of collecting data to demonstrate the cost effectiveness of IECMH services, Alaska’s work is highlighted. Alaska used an epidemiological measure to look at the percentage of adults who would not be on Medicaid if they were to eliminate adverse early childhood experiences (ACEs). The study pegged this at 42 percent. Such a high number caught the attention of legislators who realized the tremendous potential savings to Medicaid. Now conversations are more frequent with legislators and they are interested in talking about topics like self-regulation and ACEs. They seem to understand that even a modest chip away at ACEs will save the state a lot of money in the long run.

Learn more about how Alaska 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.

Alaska 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.