This evaluation study and its associated intervention are funded by the Substance Abuse Health and Services Administration (SAMHSA) and led by the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC). The project is being implemented in community service agencies (CSAs) in Boston, Springfield and Worcester, MA. Additionally, each CSA works with a primary care partner to better integrate mental health and primary care services. The role of the primary care centers is to provide referrals to the CSAs.
The project has a two-fold purpose: (a) in the three cities, to expand and strengthen the system of care to better engage the primarily local institutions which already serve young children, ensure early detection and appropriate intervention for children up to age 6, better serve the families of young children with serious emotional disturbances and provide a detailed roadmap for integrating efforts across the multiple sectors that engage young children and families, and (b) statewide, to demonstrate a replicable and sustainable model for local mental health service delivery that is integrated with the existing state system.
Lessons learned from the project are being used to influence major statewide improvements in the system of care for young children with serious emotional disturbances and their families. The Young Children’s SOC Project represents a partnership among the state’s three largest cities – Boston, Springfield and Worcester, which together are home to nearly one million residents – and key statewide agencies that have been involved in the multi-city planning process and in drafting the strategic plan.
Utilizing a Mental Health Clinician/Family Partner team at each site with specialized training to work with young children (ages birth to six years) a Local SOC Coordinator at the city’s public health department and a multi-disciplinary Local Team, the SOC project is helping to bring together the fragmented system that serves young children and their families in a way that promotes identification of young children with mental health needs, and connection to high-quality services and supports that are culturally appropriate.
The purpose of the evaluation study is to determine the effectiveness of the SOC project on early child care service systems’ functioning, children’s mental, behavioral, and developmental health outcomes, and the project’s impact on collaboration across the system of care. The evaluators are also measuring policy changes/fiscal reforms associated with preventative infant early childhood mental health in primary care practices during the period of the study.