This week, more than 400 other Pro-Kid organizations signed on to this letter urging state leaders to prioritize the mental health of children under age 5 by making a one-time investment of $250 million in the 2022-23 State Budget.
The State’s recent investment of more than $4 billion for the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI) is a strong down payment on the health and well-being of California’s children and youth. However, without a clear plan or dedicated funding, CYBHI will miss serving the critical needs of infants and toddlers, who can — and do — struggle with their mental health.
Together, we can ensure increased infant and early childhood mental health services and provider training so that all young children across California have what they need to thrive.
Dear Governor Newsom and State Legislators:
Thank you for your leadership in addressing the mental health needs of children and youth. The recent investment of more than $4 billion for the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI) is a strong down payment on the health and well-being of California’s children and youth. The CYBHI offers the promise of transforming and vastly expanding children’s mental health services.
However, without a clear plan or dedicated funding, CYBHI will miss serving the critical needs of infants and toddlers. We are requesting a one-time General Fund appropriation of $250 million to support infant and early childhood mental health services and provider training.
We are at a critical moment, one that has the potential to be pivotal in the landscape of early childhood mental health in California. Conditions created by the pandemic, such as isolation, economic stress, and community trauma, are all proven to negatively impact a child’s ability to thrive. It is vitally important that young children, their parents, and caregivers receive the interventions necessary to support their mental health during this time.
Young children under age 5 can — and do — suffer from mental health conditions. These conditions are difficult for providers to identify and address because young children handle emotional experiences and traumatic events differently from adults and older children. During these early years a child’s brain is developing more rapidly than at any other point in their life. Very young children are also uniquely dependent on the adults in their lives to meet their social-emotional needs and bounce back from stressful experiences. Thus, interventions must focus on caregivers to provide a nurturing, loving relationship that encourages the child’s social-emotional growth and supports the foundational brain development that will enable them to flourish.
In community-based programs, care and support are delivered in spaces that children and their families frequent and allow families to play an active role in their delivery. Community-based services are distinct from clinical mental health services, such as the new dyadic care Medi-Cal benefit, which, in addition to community-based services, are an essential part of the mental health system for young children. Services at the community level might look like facilitated playgroups, parenting support classes, and/or mental health consultation for early care and education providers, among others. These programs are uniquely designed to help families overcome barriers to mental health care access, and they can connect families and educators with more intensive health, mental health, or early intervention services as needed. Community-based programs are also most likely to reach families from historically marginalized communities, including immigrant families, low-income families, and families of color.
Children under age 5 comprise 23% of the young people ages 0 to 21 enrolled in Medi-Cal; yet, they do not receive a proportional share of health and mental health care. This is despite the evidence that 43% of young children have experienced at least one Adverse Childhood Experience.
The undersigned call on you to prioritize very young kids in the upcoming 2022-23 State Budget by increasing funding to support existing crucial infant and early childhood programs and services.