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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $6.8 million in available funds to implement the Healthy Steps for Young Children program in 19 sites throughout New York State. This program, offered by the New York State Office of Mental Health, will fund the integration of a child and family development professional into pediatric and family medicine doctors’ offices, to help identify, monitor and treat emerging behavioral and developmental health concerns in young children.

“Early intervention can save lives, and with this funding, we are helping more children battling mental illness get on the path towards recovery,” Governor Cuomo said. “This program will reach our youngest New Yorkers so that they have access to the services and support that they need for success later in life.”

These embedded child and family development professionals, known as Healthy Steps Specialists, will work with children from birth to age 5 to detect and monitor emerging behavioral and developmental issues, educate families about child development, help them implement healthy parenting practices, and link children and families to behavioral or developmental specialists when needed. In tandem with pediatricians and family medicine providers, this program will engage both the child and family during routine early-life doctor visits and provide screening services for the entire family, including screenings for maternal depression, developmental delays, and childhood traumas that often lead to emotional or chronic medical problems later in life. These enhanced early-life visits will offer an opportunity for families to find support in an accessible and non-stigmatizing environment.

“This program goes further than just assessing and referring the child for needed services. This model builds on the strengths of the parent and provides evidence-based strategies that parents can use to promote their child’s social emotional development and build secure attachments,” said New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Marie T. Sullivan. “It really incorporates the entire family into the child’s health care conversation to make sure that the parents have the help they need to provide for their children’s needs. We know that happy, healthy parents make for happy, healthy children and that is precisely what this program seeks to ensure.”

A national evaluation of this program, endorsed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, has shown that children and families enrolled in the Healthy Steps program are more likely to report developmental concerns to a medical professional, maintain their engagement with their child’s primary care provider, read to their child, and be more sensitive to their child’s behavioral cues. This research has also shown that this program has highly desirable effects on parental behavior, including the practice of safer and more responsive parenting, an avoidance of harsh disciplinary tactics, and a higher engagement of parents with their own health care professionals.

$6,826,728 in three-year state grants will be divided into 19 awards for medical practices throughout New York. This funding will create a Healthy Steps Specialist position at 19 pediatric and family medicine practices and provide the training and technical assistance needed to implement the program. At full implementation, it is estimated that each of these practices will deliver Healthy Steps services to 350 families, with the entire program engaging 6,650 families over three years. After the initial three-year grant program, it is expected that the Healthy Steps program will generate sufficient revenue to no longer require grant support and become self-sustainable.

The Office of Mental Health will be accepting applications through a Request for Proposal process from pediatric and family medicine practices which would like to implement the Healthy Steps program.

For more information on the Request for Proposal including requirements, eligibility, potential site locations, and deadlines for application, please visit after 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 17, 2016.