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Sep 9, 2023

The Hawai‘i State Department of Health (DOH) has been awarded a $4 million federal grant as part of the Project LAUNCH initiative. This grant will provide the DOH with $800,000 per year for the next five years, allowing them to address the mental health needs of young children from birth to age 8. The goal of the grant is to promote the wellness of these children by addressing their physical and mental health needs. Dr. Ruben Frescas Jr., chief of the DOH Children with Special Health Needs Branch, emphasizes the importance of supporting the mental health of young children, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hawai‘i has been ranked 8th in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2023 KIDS COUNT Data Book report for nurturing families and supportive communities. However, the state is ranked 44th for children’s economic well-being. Economic stressors faced by parents and families can have a negative impact on children. With this grant, the DOH aims to provide the necessary resources for families and communities to support the resilience and strength of young children.

The Project LAUNCH program, implemented by the DOH’s Children with Special Health Needs Branch, focuses on improving the abilities and skills of adult caregivers in promoting healthy social and emotional development in young children. The program also aims to identify and address behavioral concerns before they escalate into serious emotional disturbances. Through the grant, the DOH will hire a coordinator to oversee grant activities, including the development and support of community hubs and the establishment of a statewide Young Child Wellness Council. Additionally, an evaluator will be hired to conduct assessments and identify areas of need.

The DOH plans to collaborate with various partners at the state and community levels to provide workshops for families on trauma-informed care, offer mental health support for child care providers, and train more pediatricians to address behavioral health issues. Some of the partners involved in this initiative include the state Department of Education, Department of Human Services, American Academy of Pediatrics Hawai‘i, and the Primary Care Association of Hawai‘i.

Through this grant, the DOH aims to make significant strides in improving the mental health of young children in Hawai‘i. By providing resources and support to families and communities, they hope to create a nurturing environment that promotes the well-being of children.

By Editor

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