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State, community groups partner to bolster mental health services for keiki

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 10:46 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state and several nonprofit organizations are partnering as part of an effort to increase mental health services for keiki of Hawaii.

The Integrated Infant and Early Childhood Behavioral Health Plan aims to improve access to service providers for families with children 5 years old or younger, eliminate gaps in service and remove the stigma for families seeking help.

“All keiki deserve a fair start to succeed, no matter their socioeconomic status,” said Micah Kane, CEO of the Hawaii Community Foundation.

“Yet systems and services today are fragmented and spread thin due to the overwhelming demand.”

The Hawaii Community Foundation is one of the partners of the effort, which also includes the Hawaii Department of Health, the Association for Infant Mental Health Hawaii, and the Early Childhood Action Strategy Network.

The plan kicked off this month, which is also Mental Health Awareness month.

Experts say a family’s financial hardship not only causes stress for the parent but it also takes an emotional toll on their young children. They say the pandemic added even more anxiety to these young families.

“If the family is facing financial hardship right now, 52% of ... these are families with young children are also facing emotional stress,” said Justina Acevedo-Cross, a program director at the Hawaii Community Foundation.

Acevedo-Cross said that if a child is having sleeping or eating issue or needs speech therapy, the family usually goes to their pediatrician.

She said the initiative will also provide a network of mental health consultants and service providers for the doctors and the families seeking help.

“What the pandemic did is really magnify a lot of the issues we have an highlighted some of the gaps that we have,” said Erin Henderson Lacerdo, a board member for the Association for Infant Mental Health Hawaii.

To get in touch with the advisory team or to become a parent leader for the plan, please email info@aimhhi.org.

Click here to view the plan.

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