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Funding Principles

Promote Children's Social, Emotional, Behavioral Health

Funding Principles

How Can States Promote  Children’s Social, Emotional and Behavioral Health?

Maximize Federal Funds:

  • Medicaid: Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment benefit (EPSDT) requires states to finance developmental screening (including mental health), an array of early intervention services and mental health treatment for more serious conditions.[1]  For children enrolled in Medicaid, EPSDT also can finance case management, developmental services, maternal depression screening and an array of other services and supports.  In order to maximize Medicaid funds, states can clarify for families and providers the range of services that can be reimbursed, particularly mental health and developmental screening as part of comprehensive well-child examinations known as EPSDT screening visits. This is at the heart of the preventive purpose of EPSDT.
  • Title V/Maternal and Child Health Program (MCH): Title V funds can be used to finance a wide range of maternal and child health services and programs. Every state has a Title V-funded Program for Children with Special Health Care Needs and some of these programs include services for children with social-emotional and mental health needs.  Some states use Title V funds to support family support services and to promote the development of comprehensive, coordinated systems of care for children and their families.[2]  These flexible block grant dollars can also be used for special projects, such as training for child care health and mental health consultation.[3]
  • Head Start and Early Head Start: Head Start grantees are required to assure that children receive developmental screenings and are linked to follow-up testing and treatment for children with development delays or suspected disabilities.  Head Start funding can be used to support this requirement in various ways, including trainings for practitioners and building systems of coordination with mental health, Part C and the child welfare agencies.[5]

Utilize Public-Private Partnerships:

  • The Commonwealth Fund’s Assuring Better Child Health and Development (ABCD) Program funds efforts aimed at improving the delivery of early child development services for low-income children and families, particularly those whose health care is covered by state health care programs such as Medicaid.  The National Academy for State Health Policy administers the funds and provides technical assistance to states in their creation of models of service delivery and changes to financing of screenings, assessments and care for young children.  Between 2004 and 2008, North Carolina’s ABCD Program quintupled the number of screening tests administered during Medicaid well-child visits to identify young children at risk for developmental disabilities and delays and quadrupled referrals to Early Intervention programs.  The Commonwealth Fund also provides grants to states and public/private entities for other child and family health-related policy and practice improvements.
  • In 15 states, the Ounce of Prevention Fund (the Ounce) invests private dollars in innovative programs to support healthy child development and works with states to leverage public funding for replication and expansion of these programs.  In Illinois, the Ounce has worked to create the state’s Early Intervention Task Force, trains early childhood professionals to recognize warning sign of mental health disorders in children ages 0 to 3 and supported the passage and implementation of legislation that sought to promote early detection and treatment of maternal depression during and after pregnancy.

[1] Kay Johnson and Jane Knitzer (2005). “Spending Smarter: A Funding Guide for Policymakers and Advocates to Promote Social and Emotional Health and School Readiness.”  National Center for Children in Poverty. Available online
[2] Maternal and Child Health Services Title V Block Grant. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Health Resources and Services Administration. Available online . Kay Johnson and Jane Knitzer (2005). “Spending Smarter: A Funding Guide for Policymakers and Advocates to Promote Social and Emotional Health and School Readiness.”  National Center for Children in Poverty. Available online
[3] [4] [5] [6] “Addressing the Needs of Young Children in Child Welfare: Part C – Early Intervention Services.  Child Welfare Information Gateway: May 2007. Available online
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Nemours. In addition to providing advanced hospitalization and administrating several health care programs across the country, Nemours funds research and projects related to supporting children’s healthy development.