Improving Mental Health for Tennessee's Children

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 | 09:44am

NASHVILLE – More Middle Tennessee children, from birth to the age of five, are receiving early diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of mental health conditions based on federal grant funding from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Since 2009, the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) has invested $1 million annually from a federal grant award to help infants and young children overcome social-emotional challenges by recognizing and treating their mental health conditions through early intervention.

“It brings so much relief to everyone, especially the child,” said E. Douglas Varney, TDMHSAS Commissioner.  “The sooner mental health specialists can intervene the better.”

Early Childhood Mental Health Targeted Areas

Cheatham County, Dickson County, Montgomery County, Robertson County, Sumner County, Fort Campbell

In Middle Tennessee, TDMHSAS has partnered with: Advantage Behavioral Health, Centerstone of Tennessee, Centerstone Research Institute, and Volunteer Behavioral Health to offer early intervention for children identified with a mental health concern or social-emotional challenges.

“What we’ve seen over the years is children who receive treatment and support do better all the way around at home, in day care and school,” said Commissioner Varney. “It can be life changing for everyone involved.”

To help identify the children who are suffering and most at risk, pediatricians, educators, and child care workers have been trained to recognize mental health issues. It’s the first step to help a child and family in crisis.

Special Focus on Children of Military Families at Fort Campbell

Based on the duties and unique responsibilities placed upon members of the armed forces, children of soldiers stationed at Fort Campbell are of special concern. Military life, which involves frequent deployments, separations, and stress, can add more trauma to a child experiencing challenges with their social-emotional development.

“The goal is helping our children reach their full potential and achieve happiness and success in their lives,” said Commissioner Varney. “It’s every parent’s dream to see their child succeed.”

There are a variety of factors that can lead to a mental health diagnosis; however, early identification, assessment, and intervention with young children and their families can significantly impact the course of a child’s social-emotional development.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is to plan for and promote the availability of a comprehensive array of quality prevention, early intervention, treatment, habilitation, and rehabilitation services, and supports based on the needs and choices of individuals and families served.
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