First Lady Chirlane McCray Announces Creation of Early Childhood Mental Health Network as Part of ThriveNYC

July 28, 2016

Network will provide new clinical support alongside social-emotional learning programs in Pre-K for All and EarlyLearn

NEW YORK—First Lady Chirlane McCray today announced the creation of the Early Childhood Mental Health (ECMH) Network, owned and operated by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which will provide new mental health services and support for families who have young children with mental health needs. The network was developed to work alongside the introduction of new social-emotional learning support that will also be offered at Administration for Children's Services' (ACS) EarlyLearn sites and Department of Education (DOE) Pre-K for All sites across the city. As staff members and parents learn to better recognize and respond to mental health needs and trauma, the Network will expand treatment options and add capacity for training and technical assistance.

“Everyone will face hardship. That is a part of life,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who spearheads ThriveNYC, the most comprehensive mental health plan of any city or nation. “By acting early to help our youngest New Yorkers understand and manage their emotions, we can better equip them to handle stress, prevent or lessen the severity of future mental health challenges, and set them up for success. It is easier to grow a healthy child than to mend a broken adult.”

Starting this fall, ACS and pre-K sites will begin implementing new social-emotional learning practices, which help teachers, staff and parents better support and nurture children’s social and emotional development. The Early Childhood Mental Health Network creates new clinics for treating children age five and younger and their parents. Pre-K for All and EarlyLearn programs will have preference in referring their students under five to these clinics. This initiative also establishes a new Training and Technical Assistance Center for ECMH. This Center will support ACS’ and DOE’s skill-building efforts in social-emotional learning, as well as provide clinical training and practice in evidence-based, relational treatment approaches that work with caregivers and children as a unit to ensure that families are given the tools they need to thrive. Pre-K for All sites will focus on skill-building efforts in social-emotional learning for its teachers and leaders.

Early childhood mental wellbeing is defined as the developing capacity of the child from birth to five years of age to form close and secure adult and peer relationships; experience, manage and express a full range of emotions; explore the environment and learn-all in the context of family, caregivers and community. Research shows that supporting these types of skills in children helps build a strong foundation for success in school and lifelong health and mental health. Promoting social-emotional learning in early childhood settings also makes fiscal sense – every dollar invested in early childhood learning reaps as much as a tenfold return.

Currently, over 100,000 children under the age of five are served by EarlyLearn and Pre-K for All programs. The EarlyLearn system is comprised of nearly 400 center-based providers (including Head Start programs), as well as family-based providers, serving children birth to five whose family income falls between 100 percent and 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line. The ECMH Network will support the system of EarlyLearn and Pre-K for All in NYC by providing specialized mental health supports for EarlyLearn and Pre-K for All children and their families.

“Thrive NYC is expanding our mental health capacity so that our youngest New Yorkers who need mental health care can receive the services and support they need to become healthy and successful adults,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Richard Buery. “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.”

“Teachers and school administrators play an important role in nurturing a child’s social and emotional growth,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “The Early Childhood Mental Health Network and DOE professional learning will support pre-K teachers, parents and staff with training and tools to help every student build a strong foundation both in school and throughout their lives.”

The ECMH Network will assure a referral and treatment source for the entire population of children age five and younger enrolled at EarlyLearn and UPK programs in NYC, expanding resources to support an additional 37,500 clinical visits to over 3,100 children and their parents or caregivers annually. The Network will also provide 3,400 short-term onsite mental health consultations to children, families and staff at center-based EarlyLearn sites.

“As a parent and former teacher and guidance counselor, I know that a child’s academic experience has a profound impact not only on intellectual development, but also on social and emotional development. I applaud First Lady McCray for recognizing this and for prioritizing the needs of our City’s children,” said Congressman Eliot Engel, Senior Member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Commerce Health.

"Shaping future generations – this is what the First Lady and her team are doing today by pairing social-emotional supportive services and clinics at the start of a child's schooling. Wrap around services at EarlyLearn and Pre-K for All sites, will allow intervention at the earliest stages and access to support for the whole family. Starting with kids as young as three, we are teaching them that mental wellbeing is important and accessing help is a good thing. The message, as well as the program, is to be applauded," said Council Member Andrew Cohen, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health.

“This initiative will provide the proper tools to empower young minds to overcome the challenges of childhood and beyond,” said Council Member Stephen Levin, Chair of Committee on General Welfare. “Investing to make the next generation more wholesome, happier and healthier is the best bet we can make.”

“The future of childcare must include comprehensive in-school health services,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health. “This initiative is a huge step in that direction. By ensuring our early education facilities are equipped to meet the mental health needs of their students, we're setting these children up for brighter, healthier lives. I thank First Lady Chirlane McCray, who has been a true leader on mental health issues, and all who have partnered in this outstanding endeavor.”

“The Early Childhood Mental Health Network will have a tremendous positive impact on young New Yorkers with mental health needs,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm, Chair of the Committee on Education. “By providing parents and agency staff with the resources they need to care for these young people, the network will help ensure that they become happy and healthy adults. I will do all that I can to support this important investment in our children.”

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