Policy Resource

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

May 17, 2019

This article summarizes key themes from Illinois' 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 Illinois include:

  • In a section focused on increasing the number of IECMH providers with support of IECMH Associations and Credentials, Illinois is highlighted for developing their own set of competencies and creating a Masters credential.

  • In a section highlighting IECMH consultation, Illinois’ work is highlighted. Illinois is partway through a five-year initiative focused on systematizing implementation of IECMH consultation across child-serving systems. The state developed a unified model for IECMH consultation and is currently piloting it in home visiting, child care centers, and preschool in four communities.

  • In a section focused on supporting cross-agency work, Illinois is highlighted for developing the Illinois Action Plan to Integrate Early Childhood Mental Health into Child- and Family-Serving Systems, Prenatal through Age Five. This plan inspired cross-systems work and projects including the IECMH consultation initiative that reaches home visiting, child care, and preschool in four pilot communities, and participation in the IECMH Financing Policy Project.

  • In a section focused on increasing IECMH within primary care, home visiting, child care, early intervention, child welfare, and related fields, Illinois’ work is highlighted. Illinois is implementing an action plan that supports the intentional integration of prevention, intervention, and treatment services and support into child- and family-serving systems, prenatal through age five.

  • In a section focused on growing leadership outside the government, Illinois is highlighted for its Children’s Mental Health Partnership, which was established in statute. The Partnership is a statewide public/private group of policymakers and advocates committed to improving the scope and access of mental health programs, services, and supports.

Learn more about how Illinois 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.

Illinois 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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