For the next three years children five years of age and below in Riverside County will have expanded access to early intervention and mental health services as part of a new program aimed at positioning these children for emotional, social and academic success in school and life, shared Riverside University Health System (RUHS) officials.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of every seven children between the ages of two and eight have a diagnosed mental, behavioral or developmental disorder.
“The first five years are a period of incredible growth and development in a child’s life—the brain and emotional health are developing,” said Anna Loza, a licensed clinical social worker and supervisor with RUHS—Behavioral Health. “We want to make it easier for families and children to participate in a range of prevention, early intervention, and mental health programs.”
The new three-year project under the auspices of RUHS—Behavioral Health SET-4-School program, is being funded through a $7.5 million grant from First 5 Riverside who receives its funding from tobacco taxes generated by Proposition 10, a statewide voter approved initiative created to support and improve the early development of children from the prenatal stage to five years of age.
The SET-4-School program works in partnership with the Riverside, Jurupa, Nuview, Lake Elsinore and Perris school districts and provides behavioral health screening for children. It also connects the students with follow-up services including parent education, classroom support for teachers, child social skills groups, and mental health treatment.
Nonprofit organizations including Catholic Charities, Family Service Association and Victor Community Support Services will work with RUHS—Behavioral Health to deploy additional support and intervention programs.
RUHS—Public Health will also provide support. The project will offer specialized training for mentors and professionals who work with young children in school, community-based, and behavioral health settings.
Child psychiatrist, Dr. Matthew Chang, director of RUHS—Behavioral Health, said recognizing and managing behavioral, emotional and mental health issues early on can change the trajectory of a child’s life from misunderstanding and struggle to success and achievement.