Infant Mental Health On DeLauro’s Radar

Aliyya Swaby PhotoU.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro heard about how even babies can need help with their mental health—and she promised to find money to make that happen.

DeLauro (at right in photo) discussed gaps and strengths in available infant health programs during a Tuesday afternoon “roundtable” discussion at LULAC Head Start center on Cedar Street.

People are often surprised to hear that infants and young children can have mental health problems that may contribute to future education problems, said Judith Meyers, CEO of the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut (CHDI). Healthcare providers should be trained to have a better understanding of how to prevent and intervene in early childhood trauma.

Meyers and a few other roundtable participants authored a report “The Infant Mental Health Workforce,” on promoting children’s emotional and social development, pulled for discussion Tuesday afternoon.

CHDI offers free training to pediatricians in 12 offices across the state, teaching them to connect families with community services for their children and informing them of the importance of infant mental health in pediatrics, said Gerald Calnen, a retired pediatrician. The number of offices served has been growing steadily since last August, he said.

Melissa Mendez, one of the report’s authors, stressed the importance of “reflective supervision” for clinicians in infant mental health, in which they professionally process their work with a supervisor. Helping families and infants experiencing trauma is a difficult task and providers need support to continue doing it.

All of the staff at early intervention service Birth To Three are receiving reflective supervision, said Julie Hall, a physical therapist with the organization.

“We enter families’ lives when they are in a pretty vulnerable state,” she said. Staff need the extra care.

DeLauro said she planned to hold a hearing about better supporting these programs, though funding cuts would make it difficult to take extensive action right away.

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