Young Minds Matter: Supporting Children’s Mental Health Through Policy Change

Written by: Sarah Barnes
Date Posted: September 11, 2015

kf11The Children’s Campaign, Children’s Hospital Colorado, and the Colorado Children’s Healthcare Access Program have released a roadmap for strengthening mental health services for children in Colorado. “Young Minds Matter: Supporting Children’s Mental Health Through Policy Change” identifies challenges and solutions in children’s mental health policy in our state.

Mental health is a cornerstone of child well-being and there is a strong link between a child’s mental health and his or her school readiness, academic success and long-term health and life outcomes. Yet, less than half of children’s social-emotional, developmental or mental health problems are detected before they enter school.

The brief focuses on key questions as part of an increasingly robust conversation about children’s mental health in Colorado: Where are the policy gaps in supporting the healthy development of all children and families? How can redefining our approach to the mental health of children in our state help close some of these gaps?

The brief outlines five recommendations for policy change to strengthen mental health services for children in Colorado:

  • Advance integration of mental health services and supports in health care and educational settings through delivery system changes, payment reform and practice transformation.
  • Develop and fund robust infrastructure to support a statewide screening, referral and care coordination model.
  • Invest in workforce capacity development to (1) increase the number of qualified mental health professionals and (2) expand professional development and training opportunities that enhance the skills of professionals in the field.
  • Develop a comprehensive statewide navigation system to connect caregivers, families and children to referral and mental health resources, including supports for crisis situations.
  • Support innovative practices, programs and approaches, scaling those that are making a demonstrable difference and finding ways to embed them into the core work of public agencies serving children.

We would like to acknowledge and thank Cody Belzley, Dr. Steven Poole and Dr. Ayelet Talmi for their partnership as co-authors of this brief. We look forward to working with elected and appointed officials, early learning and medical professionals, and other child advocates to advance policy change to create a healthier future for Colorado.

Sarah Barnes

About Sarah Barnes

Sarah serves as the Manager of Special Policy Initiatives for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. In this role, she works across the organization and with external stakeholders to develop and oversee the implementation of the Campaign’s engagement on strategic policy priorities Prior to joining the Children’s Campaign, Sarah taught middle school English and worked as an Interventionist at Pioneer Charter School in Denver. She was a 2011 Teach For America corps member. Sarah earned a BA in English from Midland University and a J.D. from the University of Michigan.