Policy Resource

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

May 17, 2019

This article summarizes key themes from Washington'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 Washington include:

  • In a section focused on maximizing reimbursement by Medicaid Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT), managed care, and accountable care organizations, Washington’s work is highlighted. Washington began the process of integrating medical and behavioral health services (mental health and substance use disorder services) into the Apple Health Managed Care Organizations in two counties in April 2016. The integrated Managed Care program is expected to be implemented statewide by January 2020. The state has developed a “Common Measure Set” of performance measures that focus on a broad spectrum of medical and behavioral health services.

  • In a section focused on supporting cross-agency work, Washington is highlighted. Washington State’s Medicaid program covers nearly 50 percent of all children. The state brought Medicaid and behavioral health together to create a more integrated system.

  • In a section focused on growing leadership outside the government, Washington is highlighted for having a Children’s Mental Health Work Group that includes a mix of legislators and advocates. The Work Group focuses broadly on children from birth through transition-aged youth and has successfully advanced legislation that ensures depression screening for new mothers and created a state-level planning position to develop IECMH services.

Learn more about how Washington 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.

Washington 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.