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: Grantees in MCHB programs like Healthy Start and Home Visiting use evidence-based approaches to screen perinatal women and parents of young children, and refer them to treatment and support for mental and substance use disorders.

Clinical guidelines: We fund the development and dissemination of clinical guidelines such as the Women's Preventive Services Guidelines, Bright Futures pediatric guidelines, and a maternal safety bundle (sets of evidence-based practices) for hospitals and providers on the obstetric management of women with opioid dependence.

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 new tele-consultation and provider training programs that improve the mental health and well-being of mothers and children.
  • HRSA MCHB 21st Century Cures Act Programs: Providing Access to Behavioral Health Care for Pediatric & Maternal Populations (PDF 1.7 MB)
    Launched in 2018, these programs are supporting behavioral health integration in primary care and maternal health through new and expanding telehealth access programs—including screening, providing clinical behavioral health consultation, care coordination support, and training—with a focus on rural and underserved areas.
  • Another grant to states 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 program will assist rural communities to implement evidence-based, two-generational strategies that promote health and wellbeing of children (prenatally to age 3) and create economic opportunities for their families, including those especially at risk for, or who have experienced adverse childhood experiences, including dealing with opioid use and neonatal abstinence syndrome/neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome.
  • Other programs 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, MCHB is supporting Grand Challenges, including “Addressing Opioid Use Disorder in Pregnant Women and New Moms.”

At the workforce training level: 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.

At the patient and family level: Grantees such as the state-based Family to Family Health Information Centers 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: The Supporting State MCH Policy Innovation Program supports innovative policy initiatives at the state level that improve access to quality health care, including behavioral health, for MCH populations.

Date Last Reviewed:  September 2019