New Resource Highlights What Works for Healthy Social and Emotional Development of Young Children

As more states look to support healthy social and emotional development of young children and their families, the experts at the National Center for Children in Poverty recently launched a database that combines descriptions of research-informed policies and programs that support infant and early childhood mental health with profiles of model states implementing them.

The ever-growing database, known as PRiSM (Promoting Research-informed State IECMH Policies and Scaled Initiatives), makes it easy to learn exactly how and why these programs work and where to look for best practices. And as a bonus to those of us working on state Medicaid policy, the NCCP researchers take care to highlight where the policies have been adopted in state Medicaid programs.

For instance, in maternal depression screening and response, a policy that more than half the states have now adopted in Medicaid, NCCP details Michigan’s approach to building a referral pipeline for moms who screen positive for maternal depression to a home visiting program for Medicaid-eligible moms and infants up to age one. In addition, the database links to monitoring and evaluations of the programs and estimates their annual costs.

Another strategy the NCCP researchers unpack is dyadic treatment, a form of therapy in which the infant or young child and parent are treated together by a clinician either in the room or in a nearby room. Using an evidence-based model of treatment, the clinician coaches the parent to encourage positive interactions that can help improve parenting, the parent-child relationship, and the child’s behavior. Both the parent and child have the chance to experience more positive ways to interact with each other, with the goal of improving the child’s social and emotional development.

In Arkansas, one of four states profiled for their implementation the service, Medicaid reimburses specific dyadic therapy models designed to be used with young children with disruptive behaviors, including those with a history of trauma. The therapy, generally covered under medical necessity as part of the child’s Medicaid EPSDT benefit, is, “designed to help young children and their caregivers young children and their caregivers heal after stressful experiences and strengthen the parent-child relationship,” the NCCP authors write.

The state has also worked to grow its workforce of people trained to deliver dyadic therapy, and providers can receive training for free through a state-funded training program housed at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. So far, more than 10,000 providers, including pediatricians, school officials, child welfare workers, and other community members have received training on working with children and families who’ve experienced trauma. Medicaid will only reimburse approved infant mental health providers using codes reserved for dyadic treatment delivered to children under age 4 and their parent.

As these two examples show, the resource is invaluable for advocates and policymakers working to adopt policies and pay for programs that support healthy social and emotional development of young children. We can’t wait to keep learning as more states are added.

Maggie Clark is a Program Director at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center for Children and Families.