Third annual Utah Early Childhood Mental Health Summit addresses access to mental health care

SALT LAKE CITY KSL.COM — Utah aims to be a national leader in addressing mental health issues, including the mental health of the youngest Utahns.

The Children’s Center Utah is raising awareness and providing hope for those kids and their families. On Thursday, they hosted the third annual Utah Early Childhood Mental Health Summit.

In many ways, the pandemic exposed mental health challenges in every age group. But it also raised awareness of that growing need.

Gov. Spencer Cox and first lady Abby Cox helped kick off the online summit by renewing their commitment to mental health services.

“I’m passionate about making sure that everyone understands that mental health is just as important as physical health,” the governor said in the online summit. It was attended by business, community and state leaders, along with mental health professionals.

The governor and first lady believe Utahns’ mental health is just as critical as physical health, and we need to treat it that way, even among infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

“The need is great, and now is the time to act to ensure that all Utah children have access to mental health services,” said Abby Cox.

As a community, the president of the Children’s Center said we begin by recognizing that kids that age have mental health and that addressing their challenges has life-long positive impacts.

“We can do better for our kids. We can help our kids be ready and resilient,” said Rebecca Dutson, president and CEO of The Children’s Center Utah.

Following the summit last year, collaborative work has already started to create a baseline estimate of need for early childhood mental health services.

Utah is also working to increase early childhood mental health awareness activities to increase understanding and reduce stigma related to mental health. They are also working on estimating the long-term value of early childhood mental health in Utah.

“When we work with small children, when we are addressing the early needs, we are building for the future generations,” Abby Cox said.

Dutson explained that when mental health challenges kids may face early in life are addressed by working together with them and their families, it teaches them the skills they need. It has lasting positive effects for the child and the entire family.

“While mental health needs have always existed among our children, now is the time to sharpen our focus upstream on early childhood mental health,” Dutson said.

The Children’s Center Utah is working to provide more services throughout the state to train providers and enable care for families. The ultimate goal is to give families hope and healing when they’re most vulnerable.

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