SEED develops mental health

Social Emotional Early Development service available to children

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This is the fifth in a series of articles about local services that support women's health and newborn care. It is my hope that through these programs, the continued health of this very vibrant part of Colorado will continue to grow. Some of the highlighted programs include Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association Public Health Programs, Yampa Valley Autism Program, Newborn Network, First Impressions of Routt County, Horizon's and Steamboat Mental Health/SEED Project. We all know how difficult it is to have good insurance and access to care, what we may not know is how many support programs are available for families in Routt and Moffat Counties.

- James M. Summers, DO/MS, FACOG, Director of Inpatient Obstetrical Services, Yampa Valley Medical Center

— Q: What does it mean if you are an infant and in therapy? (Now that sounds crazy!) When and why do we do infant mental health evaluations? What is Infant Mental Health?

A: Infant mental health is the developing capacity of the child from birth to 5 to experience, regulate and express emotions. An evaluation might be helpful when:

- Someone is concerned about a child's development or progress

- At specific points in development (e.g., transitions, well- child checks)

- To learn about a young child, family functioning and relationships

Infant mental health is the same as healthy social and emotional development. When we think "healthy", we think about the ability of the child to form close and secure interpersonal relationships. When this is in place, the child is able to explore the environment and learn. A secure base is the foundation of all learning.

S.E.E.D., or Social Emotional Early Development, was started in 2001 at the Steamboat Mental Health Center, when the Consolidated Childcare Pilots were asked to identify significant problems affecting their childcare services. The emotional and behavioral problems of very young children emerged as the major issue affecting communities across the state as well as in our community. At this time, the Early Childhood Mental Health Intervention Pilot was funded, and S.E.E.D. was established to provide direct services to children in childcare settings in Routt County. Understanding and committing to the importance of early intervention, Steamboat Mental Health was able to hire a full time early childhood mental health professional. The mission of S.E.E.D. is to promote the social and emotional development of young children and their families.

Effective mental health services for young children and families must be delivered in a way that makes them flexible, accessible and available. Infant and young child mental health cannot be separated from the context in which the child exists, and caregivers are a central part of the context. Some of the prevention services provided include expanding the competencies of all early childhood professionals and parents by offering support, consultation and strategies for behavioral support. Child and family therapy, as well as psychiatric care, are also offered as a part of many treatment plans.

The objective of early intervention is to ensure that very small concerns don't turn into big problems later.

Susie Clark, LCSW, is the therapist/coordinator of the SEED Program at Steamboat Mental Health. She can be reached at 879-2141.

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