Tennessee Awarded $9 Million for Early Intervention Services in Middle Tennessee

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 | 07:31am
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (TDMHDD) has received a $9 million grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to implement a coordinated system of care for young children in Middle Tennessee over the next six years called the Early Connections Network (ECN). The grant, which began October 1, 2010, is one of only nine awarded nationwide and will serve children from birth to age five and their families in Cheatham, Dickson, Montgomery, Robertson, and Sumner counties, with a special focus on the children and families of military service members.
The ECN anticipates serving at least 400 young children with social, emotional, and behavioral needs. A main goal of the grant is to establish a sustainable infrastructure that will reduce stigma and increase community awareness about the need for early intervention and prevention services and supports for this population of children and their families. The ECN is a result of the partnership between the Department’s Division of Special Populations, Tennessee Voices for Children, Centerstone of Tennessee, and Centerstone Research Institute.
“The Early Connections Network promises to offer an effective approach to delivering early intervention and prevention services and system transformation through an enhanced culturally competent, family-driven and coordinated system of care,” said TDMHDD Commissioner Virginia Trotter Betts. “This grant will provide the essential resources, knowledge, skills and support that providers, families, and community members need to effectively treat early childhood social, emotional, and behavioral needs.”
“It’s so important that we give Tennessee’s young children the early intervention and attention they need to promote healthy development,” said Freida Outlaw, assistant commissioner for the Division of Special Populations at TDMHDD. “This funding will help families, schools and community agencies work together to build the relationships and service infrastructure that will benefit these children as they prepare for school and life.”
The system of care approach to serving young children and their families promotes the early identification and treatment of social, emotional, and behavioral issues of young children through service infrastructure that is specially equipped to respond early and effectively to their needs. The focus of the ECN early childhood system of care is to foster collaboration between caregivers, state and local agencies, childcare centers, primary care providers, and schools to provide appropriate services and supports for young children and their families. The ECN will improve outcomes for young children who have significant behavioral or relational symptoms related to trauma, parent and child interaction difficulties, or impaired social emotional development.
“Centerstone is delighted to work alongside our partners at the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities and Tennessee Voices for Children to provide early childhood treatment services under this grant,” said John Page, Chief Operating Officer for Specialized Services at Centerstone. “This system of care will benefit many underserved children and families in our state’s northern counties and it is our privilege to be a part of this important new service.”
“We at Tennessee Voices for Children are very pleased that Tennessee was awarded the Early Connections grant which moves us closer to our goal of having local systems of care for children with mental health problems and their families available in every community across Tennessee,” said Charlotte Bryson, Executive Director at Tennessee Voices for Children. “This grant allows us to continue to improve and transform the children's mental health system to provide family-driven, youth guided effective services.”
Tennessee currently has systems of care in Maury County (MuleTown Family Network), Knox County (K-Town Youth Empowerment) and Shelby County (JustCare Family Network). Nashville Connection was Tennessee’s first federally funded system of care. ECN is Tennessee’s first system of care grant focusing solely on early childhood.
For additional information about Tennessee’s systems of care or mental health and substance abuse information please contact the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities’ Office of Communications at (615) 253-4812 or visit www.tn.gov/mental.

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