Iowa's 1st Five Initiative Links Children and Families to Needed Services

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<p>Mounting evidence shows that early detection and treatment of emotional and social delays and mental health problems in young children can influence their future health and happiness. Finding intervention services for identified children, however, is not always easy.<br><br>In the first of a series of <a href="/publications/issue-briefs/2008/sep/iowas-1st-five-initiative--improving-early-childhood-developmental-services-through-public-private-p
">Commonwealth Fund issue briefs</a>, researchers show how an innovative program in Iowa is helping pediatric providers screen young children and refer them and their families to needed services. Under the 1st Five Healthy Mental Development Initiative, developed in 2006 by the Iowa Department of Public Health with help from the Fund's Assuring Better Child Health and Development (ABCD) program, providers and staff in participating practices in 21 Iowa counties have been trained to assess developmental milestones, family stress, and possible caregiver depression. When these practices identify concerns, they contact a care coordinator at a designated 1st Five health center, who meets with the family, assesses its needs, makes referrals to community-based services, and informs the provider of the family's status.<br><br>To date, participating providers have referred 486 children, leading to more than 1,575 referrals to services. In 2008, 39 practices serving 41,000 children are participating in the program and administrators expect that in 2009, 80 medical practices serving about 74,445 children will be participating.<br><br>Author Sharon Silow-Carroll of Health Management Associates says the 1st Five experience shows there are substantial opportunities to improve early detection of social and emotional delays and related problems by improving the links between physicians and the public health system and by providing comprehensive care coordination.</p>