“Healthy From Day One” Gains Momentum

Allan Appel PhotoYou’ve heard of dialing 9-1-1 in a police emergency.

And there used to be, in New Haven, a 3-1-1 non-emergency number for city services from fixing potholes to figuring out the mystery of an abandoned boat beside the roadway. (Then SeeClickFix replaced it for city offices.)

Now there’s 2-1-1 to provide new streamlined access, resources, and connecting young parents to what they specifically need for kids — and their families — to be healthy in the developmentally crucial early years of life.

That’s because the state’s exisiting Department of Children and Famiies (DCF) 2-1-1 child development infoline has been upgraded and better integrated with statewide services, It also now hosts Healthy From Day One’s site.

The Healthy From Day One program is funded by a five-year $4 million federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).

Its purpose: To bring physical and emotional wellness to the state’s young families in a more coordinated way by pulling together community resources and training both parents and pediatric practitioners to intervene early, especially among very young children in vulnerable communities.

“Eighty percent of brain development happens before the age of 8,” cautioned state Commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood David Wilkinson, who was on hand at a press conference Tuesday at New Haven City Hall to publicize the program and announce upcoming events.

United Way Marketing Coordinator Jeanette Baker noted that the 2-1-1 Child Development Infoline contains 4,000 agencies that collectively offer — count ‘em — 40,000 individual programs and services.

On a local level the grant has permitted local partnering organizations, primarily the Clifford Beers Clinic to take what the organization’s Vice President Christine Montgomery called “a deeper dive” in serving children up to age eight.

Through hiring an additional clinician and a coordinator, the group has been able to go to pediatric practices in poorly served communities,  as well as into shelters housing families, and similar organizations to screen young kids for issues such as whether the children are hitting their developmental benchmarks regarding crawling, walking, and speech.

Over the past two years of the program’s operation, Montgomery and the Clifford Beers Manger of Community and Family Engagement Tirzah Kemp reported about 400 kids were screened in those settings who showed signs of concern about developmental benchmarks, and also issues of childhood depression, among others.

Of those 400 needing services, 75 percent found it, in many cases with the Healthy From Day One and other staffers, bringing the young families hand-in-hand to providers. In many instances, the Clifford Beers clinicians embedded with pediatric practices, training staffers there into how to identify issues and then connect young families to get what they need.

One of the additional features of the work — and a goal of the Healthy From Day One effort — has also been to establish a council of parents to spread the word, to advocate, and to keep the effort alive after the grant dollars are expended, reported Montgomery.

The word is going to be spread in a day long event on May 19 at the Dr. Reginald Mayo Early Childhood School (formerly Helene Grant School) at 185 Goffe St. There will be info, events for kids, and also clinicians providing screenings on site.

In addition to Clifford Beers, other local groups participating include the Early Childhood Consultation Partnership, the Yale School of Medicine, and the New Haven MOMS Partnership.

An additional way to access services is through an old-fashioned phone call, at 1-800-505-7000.

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