New Report Explores Ohio’s Early Childhood Mental Health Landscape, Identifies Opportunities for Growth
In Inaugural Report, Groundwork Ohio’s Center for Maternal and Young Child Health Focuses on Supporting the Mental Health Needs of Ohio’s Youngest Children
COLUMBUS, OH – In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is widespread agreement that Ohio’s school age children and adolescents are experiencing a mental health crisis. Just last week, a coalition of pediatric health experts declared the children’s mental health crisis “a national emergency.” However, as a new report from Groundwork Ohio’s Center for Maternal and Young Child Health illustrates, babies, toddlers, and preschool age children also have mental health needs that are often overlooked and unmet. With a focus on Ohio’s youngest children, the report identifies opportunities for Ohio to promote early childhood mental health, prevent trauma, and treat mental health problems before they become more serious problems later in life.
Ohio’s infants, toddlers, and preschool age children are facing unprecedented mental health challenges. The pandemic has undoubtedly exposed many of Ohio’s youngest children to the stress, trauma, and financial hardships experienced by their families and communities. As Groundwork Ohio’s report explains, when children experience trauma or adversity, their emotional health deteriorates. These experiences can produce long-lasting negative effects on children’s physical and mental health, academic achievement, and self-sufficiency.
“Many people assume that young age protects children from the impact of traumatic experiences, but a growing body of research shows that this simply isn’t the case. We know that trauma and adversity often take a toll on a child’s growth and development,” said Lynanne Gutierrez, Assistant Director and Legal Counsel at Groundwork Ohio. “By focusing on early prevention and treatment, we can better meet the mental health needs of Ohio’s youngest children and their caregivers. Investing in early childhood mental health is a cost-effective strategy to grow healthier, stronger families and communities across Ohio.”
Through a landscape analysis that taps into the expertise of 20 early childhood mental health stakeholders, Groundwork Ohio’s report offers recommendations and a framework for conversation on how the state of Ohio can better support the mental health needs of Ohio’s youngest children and their caregivers.
Among the recommendations, the report calls for increasing awareness among parents, caregivers, policymakers, and the public on the importance of early childhood mental health. The report also provides recommendations to address funding, delivery, capacity, and workforce challenges that impact Ohio’s early childhood mental health services.
“The future of our state depends on growing healthy kids and families, and that requires promoting and strengthening early childhood mental health,” said Kelsey Hopkins, Policy Associate at Groundwork Ohio. “As part of our mission at the Center for Maternal and Young Child Health, we look forward to working with state and local leaders to ensure that young children and their families have access to a continuum of services that support their healthy development and life-long success.”
Announced in February 2021, Groundwork Ohio’s innovative Center for Maternal and Young Child Health is dedicated to transforming systems to better serve Ohio’s pregnant moms and their young children. This “center of excellence” will advance best practices to improve prenatal-to-five health policy through rigorous stakeholder engagement and advocacy. Finally, the Center for Maternal and Young Child Health will work closely with Groundwork Ohio’s new Center for Family Voice to ensure that lasting relationships with pregnant women, parents, and caregivers are fostered to inform policy development and support advocacy.
Learn more about the Center for Maternal and Young Child Health: www.groundworkohio.org/health
Groundwork Ohio is a committed, nonpartisan public-policy research and advocacy organization formed in 2004 that champions high-quality early learning and healthy development strategies from the prenatal period to age five, that lay a strong foundation for Ohio kids, families and communities. Learn more about Groundwork Ohio at groundworkohio.org and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.