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Tennessee Selected for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Training

National program to build on foundation built by state leaders and child advocates
Tuesday, April 10, 2018 | 07:46am

NASHVILLE—Tennessee is one of 19 states selected for a new training and support program to improve the social, emotional, and mental health of babies, toddlers, and young children.

A group of leaders from several state agencies and other stakeholders led by the Association of Infant Mental Health in Tennessee (AIMHiTN) will participate in a year-long series of sessions with ZERO TO THREE.  Goals include identifying strategies to increase education, funding, and access to assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of infants and young children in Tennessee.

“When we talk about infant and early childhood mental health, we’re looking at the social and emotional well-being of children from birth to age five,” said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams.  “At this crucial stage of life, when a child’s brain is developing so quickly, we have an amazing opportunity to have a lifelong impact.”

The lessons learned through the partnership will build upon work done through several initiatives including Building Strong Brains: Tennessee ACEs Initiative.  The conversation surrounding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) has informed policy leaders and decision-makers at all levels about the negative effects of exposure to toxic stress and trauma on a child’s development.

“At its heart, this is work that has a goal of growing healthy children, strong families, and thriving communities,” said Heather Taylor Griffith, TDMHSAS director for the Office of Children and Youth Mental Health.  “Early mental health assessment and intervention are essential to ensuring optimal development so children can be successful in school and in life.”

In addition to AIMHiTN and TDMHSAS, the team includes TennCare, Department of Children’s Services, Department of Health (TN Young Child Wellness Council), Department of Education, Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations, State Centers of Excellence for Children in State Custody, and clinicians and representatives from the medical community.

“We have an impressive group of partners that we’ve brought to the table for this project,” said Angela Webster, Executive Director of AIMHiTN.  “Collaborative work on a common goal is the reason we’ve seen success so far, and it’s the reason we’ll continue to make gains in the future.”

“As the Medicaid system for Tennessee, TennCare has a responsibility to our citizens, as both taxpayers and community members, to be financially responsible and support techniques and innovations that result in healthier families,” said Crystal Parker, Director of Child Programs with TennCare.  “We are committed to the health and well-being of young children. “

To learn more about infant mental health, adverse childhood experiences, and other similar topics, visit