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Funded Projects

Massachusetts Pediatric Mental Health Care Access for Children under Six

Grant Status: Active

Training Category: Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program (PMHCA)

Project Director(s):

Larisa Mendez-Penate
Massachusetts Department of Public Health
250 Washington St.
Boston, MA  02108-4619
Phone: (617) 624-5907


One in 6 U.S. children aged 2--8 years (17.4%) had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. Prevalence varied by gender and poverty level and likelihood of receiving treatment was also impacted by poverty level and age, as well as inequities due to race and ethnicity. Positive behavioral health screens for young children in MA have increased since 2012: from 8.7% to 11.62% for children aged 3 to 6, and 4.9% to 6.56% for children 6 months to 2 years. Pediatric providers served by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's (MDPH) key partner, the MA Child Psychiatry Access Project (MCPAP), report that training on early childhood mental health (ECMH) is the highest need.

Goals and Objectives:

Promote ECMH integration into pediatric primary care by enhancing MCPAP's ECMH capacity and providing training and resources to enable primary care providers to support the behavioral health needs and wellness of children under 6 years old and their families. Objectives: Establish an Early Childhood MCPAP team; increase number of pediatric PCPs receiving enhanced telehealth consultation; increase the number of PCPs and care teams trained on early childhood positive behavior support and the DC:0-5 diagnostic assessment tool; increase the network and linkages for ECMH mental health clinicians, resources and connection points to early childhood system; increase earlier detection and more effective and equitable referrals for services; increase amount and effectiveness of data collection on race and ethnicity and use of this data in CQI efforts; and scale, integrate and sustain the project statewide.


Deploy a team of a psychiatrist, licensed clinical social worker, and program coordinator with ECMH expertise in the Western/Central MA Child Psychiatry Access Project region. Provide training and consultation on early childhood positive behavior support and the DC:0-5 diagnostic assessment to providers and care teams using the ECHO model. Provide enhanced tools, resources and linkages to the early childhood and family support systems.


MPDH will contract with MCPAP and its Central MA team, coordinate with the Department of Mental Health and the Office of Medicaid, and IECMH Policy Workgroup to ensure alignment within the behavioral health system, and be advised by the Young Children's Council, a public-private entity that includes diverse family and community representation.


The project will use the HIPAA-secure MCPAP Live data base to collect and track encounter, performance, training, and survey data, which will be used in continuous quality improvement activities and to assess the effectiveness of the program's implementation. The project will contract with an external evaluator to design a more comprehensive evaluation plan, and seek additional resources to examine the program's effectiveness in increasing timely and equitable access to pediatric mental health care for families of young children with behavioral health needs who experience inequities or reside in underserved regions of state.