• NYC’s Early Childhood Mental Health Network Helps Young Children Thrive

    In New York City, one in four children under 5 years old has a caregiver with concerns about their mental health and development.

    By Amelia Warshaw

    Since 2016, the Early Childhood Mental Health (ECMH) Network has been dedicated to supporting NYC’s families and providing access to mental health services. Part of the ThriveNYC initiative and overseen by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the ECMH Network aims to expand treatment options and help teachers and parents better recognize and respond to both mental health needs and trauma.

    In New York City, one in four children under 5 years old has a caregiver with concerns about their development. Thanks to the Early Childhood Mental Health (ECMH) Network, these children—and their families—are able to access the services and support they need.

    Created in 2016 as part of the ThriveNYC initiative, the ECMH focuses on the socioemotional development of our youngest New Yorkers, and for good reason: Half of all mental health conditions and substance use disorders start before the age of 14.

    Not only does beginning in early childhood help promote the resiliency, self-esteem, and family strength of New Yorkers, but it also plays a key role in dispelling the stigma around mental illness and mental health services that pervades our society. By identifying and addressing emotional and behavioral challenges early in life, we can promote healthy development and help kids overcome obstacles to success in school and life.

    To ensure access to all New Yorkers regardless of geographical location, language barriers, and income, the network consists of seven Early Childhood Therapeutic Centers (ECTCs) located across all five boroughs, which accept Medicaid and other types of insurance and are able to provide culturally sensitive services in several languages.

    Furthermore, understanding the immense support that comes from family and community, the ECTCs provide clinical services not only for children, but their caregivers and families as well. There is comprehensive assessment, care planning, and parent education, as well as Family Peer Support services offered at each and every therapeutic center. Consultation services offered at schools will also ensure early intervention for New Yorkers already in the school system, and promote collaboration and communication between teachers, families, and mental health care providers.

    Six organizations have come together to serve the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island: The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services, Northside Center for Child Development, The Child Center of New York, Staten Island Mental Health Society, and the Association to Benefit Children.

    In the program’s first year, ABC’s Mental Health Services served nearly 750 children and their families and also provided screenings to over 500 more children. More than just bringing services to the children and families that need them, the ECTC like ABC’s Fast Break Clinic in the Bronx are making a huge difference: 89 percent of the children served have made progress towards their treatment goals.

    Knowing that prevention and early intervention are the best medicine, the Early Childhood Mental Health Network, together with NYC’s families, is continuing to support children as they grow and develop, ensuring their social and emotional development and their overall health.

    “It is critical that we help our children in their early years address the challenges they face to help them build the resilience and strengths they need to achieve their greatest level of mental wellness,” explained Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives, at the program’s launch back in 2016. “Thrive NYC is expanding our mental health capacity so that our youngest New Yorkers… can receive the services and support they need to become healthy and successful adults.”

    To make a family referral or request more information about early childhood mental health resources for your child, contact your nearest clinic.

    Bronx

    South: Association to Benefit Children; 929-288-4320
    North: The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services; 844-663-2255 (844-ONE-CALL)

    Brooklyn

    Central and Southern: OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services; 800-603-6435 (800-603-OHEL)
    Northern and Eastern: The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services; 844-663-2255 (844-ONE-CALL)

    Manhattan

    Northside Center for Child Development; 212-426-3400

    Queens

    The Child Center of New York; 718-530-6892

    Staten Island

    Staten Island Mental Health Society; 718-448-9775, ext. 551

    Amelia B. Warshaw is now entering her second year of medical school at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. A proud member of the MD’21 class, she has previously worked at The Daily Beast, NYU-Langone’s Doctor Radio, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and the Association to Benefit Children (ABC).

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