Mental and Behavioral Health: Mothers, Children & Families

In HRSA's Maternal and ChiId Health Bureau, our programs fundamentally promote mental health and well-being for maternal and child populations across the lifespan. This aligns with our mission to improve the health of America’s mothers, children, and families.

Our programs Promote, Prevent, Screen, Intervene, Refer, Treat, Train, and Support:

 

  • We promote healthy mental, emotional and behavioral development in infants, children and youth.
  • We strive to prevent mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders and build public awareness that mental, social, and emotional health are a critical foundation of physical health.
  • We support the use of evidence-based, trauma-informed tools and training for health professionals as they screen, intervene, refer, and treat "two generations" of MCH populations, linking them to comprehensive health, behavioral health, and wraparound services and supports.

What is Behavioral Health?

Behavioral health includes the promotion of emotional health; the prevention of mental illnesses (e.g., depression and anxiety), substance use disorders, psychological distress and suicide; and treatments and services for mental and/or substance use disorders, and recovery supports.

How We Help the Field Address Mental and Behavioral Health

We focus efforts on multiple levels.

At the provider level

At the systems level:

  • States and territories have discretion in the use of our Title V Maternal and Child Block Grant funds to address their unique needs through gap-filling direct services, and enabling public health services and systems.
  • MCHB funds states through two 21st Century Cures Act programs that support mental and behavioral health integration in pediatric primary care and maternal health, especially in rural and underserved areas. Through new and expanding telebehavioral health access programs (PDF - 1.7 MB), states provide real-time clinical consultation and care coordination support and training to expand front-line providers' capacity to screen, assess, treat and refer their pediatric and perinatal patients. Learn more about our programs for
  • Funding supports building early childhood systems of care at the state, county and community levels and improving children's developmental health and family well-being outcomes.
  • The Rural Health IMPACT (PDF - 170 KB) program assists rural communities to implement evidence-based, two-generational strategies that promote health and well being of children (prenatally to age 3). It creates economic opportunities for their families. The program targets those especially at risk for, or who have experienced adverse childhood experiences. Those adverse childhood experiences included dealing with opioid use and neonatal abstinence syndrome/neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome.
  • Programs also improve the quality and capacity of school-based health care services, including school mental health systems, and support bullying prevention at the national, state and local levels.

At the innovation level:

At the workforce training level:

  • MCHB funds a new provider training program Exit Disclaimer aimed at reducing the incidence of prenatal alcohol exposure and improving the outcomes in children with suspected or diagnosed fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), especially in rural areas.
  • We support interdisciplinary graduate training such as our Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics Training Program.
  • We support continuing education for the practicing workforce around pediatric mental and behavioral health through our Collaborative Office Rounds program and others.
  • We provide evidence-based resources and technical assistance to state health departments on injury and violence prevention, including suicide prevention, through our Children's Safety Network program.

At the patient and family level:

  • Grantees such as the state-based Family to Family Health Information Centers Exit Disclaimer provide training and education to families of children with special health care needs - including behavioral health needs — to help families navigate the health care system and connect to services.

At the policy level

Date Last Reviewed:  September 2020