Role #3: Enhancing Mental Health Services and Supports

Role #3: Enhancing Mental Health Services and Supports

Happy baby with a snack

A third major role of consultants is enhancing mental health services and supports for children, families, providers and programs. Consultants work collaboratively with caregivers and programs on enhancements at various levels: from promoting mental wellness for all children to preventing social/emotional issues in at-risk children to early intervention for children exhibiting challenging or troubling behavior. This comprehensive approach requires simultaneous and complementary efforts at the individual child/family level and the program level to ensure the full spectrum of mental health needs are addressed in both the short and long term.

Some core activities that consultants might do to facilitate enhancements to mental health services and supports in HS/EHS settings include:

  • Recommend various best practice strategies that programs, parents and providers might implement to address a specific issue facing an individual child or family, or the entire HS/EHS program.
    • For example: To promote social skills in all children, teach key concepts through social stories, “feelings books” or music and provide opportunities to reinforce those skills through role-playing activities. To prevent children from hitting or acting out in other inappropriate ways, teach children self-calming techniques, such as retreating to a cozy corner, and create a “solution kit” or visual cue cards to give children guidance on acceptable ways to handle problem situations. To intervene for a child that is consistently having trouble sharing, help the child implement a “sharing plan” to establish ground rules at the onset of play (e.g., deciding who will build each part of the castle with the blocks).
  • Facilitate mental health screenings and observations to ensure that young children’s mental health needs are detected as early and accurately as possible.
    • For example: Advise HS/EHS programs on the selection and administration of developmentally- and culturally-appropriate mental health screening tools and/or structured observation methods. Also, give providers guidance on how to use findings constructively.

Note: Check out our Choose and Use Guide to help facilitate screening and assessment tool selection and appropriate use of findings.

  • Provide crisis services when caregivers need assistance in managing a difficult situation.
    • For example: If a child’s behavior is threatening his/her safety or the safety of others and none of the behavior management strategies currently in place are working, intervene to get the situation under control. Then, in the interest of preventing repeat occurrences and continuing to build caregiver capacity, work with the caregivers to decipher why the behavior happened and put additional strategies into place.
  • Facilitate referrals to supports and services outside of the HS/EHS program.
    • For example: When the needs of a child or caregiver are beyond the scope of what the consultant or the HS/EHS program can provide, facilitate a referral to outside resources. Be sure that the consultant is familiar with the appropriate process for making referrals within the HS/EHS program, as the referral may need to officially be made by a designated staff person (e.g., Disabilities Coordinator).

Note: To learn more about available services and supports for young children, visit the CECMHC Best Practice Tutorial, Surveying the Landscape: Early Childhood Systems and Supports.

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This product was developed [in part] under grant number 1H79SM082070-01 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.