Larimer County is fortunate to have myriad nonprofit organizations making a difference in our community. Adult-serving agencies, like those focused on housing or corrections, interact more regularly with adults, yet have a direct link to ensuring young children have the resources and support they need to thrive. That is why Early Childhood Council of Larimer County is piloting a new project, Early Childhood Mental Health (ECMH) Consultation for Adult-Serving Agencies, which is supported by a grant from the Larimer County Department of Behavioral Health Services.
Together with the Council, The Willow Collective is spearheading the project, with Hannah Wurster, Ph.D., LMFT, IMH-E – Infant Mental Health Specialist and co-founder of The Willow Collective, working with partner agencies Neighbor to Neighbor, Housing Catalyst, and Homeward Alliance, and Mary Beth Swanson, LCSW, IMH-E, and co-founder of The Willow Collective, working with Larimer County Community Corrections. The project focuses on connecting the adult-serving agencies highlighted above with local early childhood mental health (ECMH) experts via The Willow Collective. Through the collaboration, agencies and ECMH experts examine policies, practices, and structures to provide a more holistic and intentional approach to supporting families. Consultation services are tailored to meet each organization’s unique needs and goals.
“The organizations I’ve been working with are super collaborative and open to learning,” Wurster said. “They are ready to try new things.”
While Wurster isn’t working directly with the corrections team, she said Swanson has commented that they are equally as enthusiastic about the consulting, training, and resources.
In addition to personalized consultation and collaboration, the Willow Collective has provided the following training and tools:
Webinar on Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Mental Health (50 minutes):
- This training covers core concepts, as well as practical strategies to identify concerns and begin conversations with families.
Provider resource guide:
- This guide is meant for providers to use when connecting families to support services. The guide is organized by topic, which are listed in the table of contents. Families are welcome to view this, as well, but it is quite long, so The Willow Collective created the more targeted list of resources below.
- Also embedded in The Willow Collective’s website: https://www.willowcollectivefoco.com/provider-resources. You can navigate to this from the homepage by hovering over “resources” in the top menu and then clicking “provider resources.”
Family resource guide
- This is a shorter list of resources, which would be a good link to send families if they want to explore resources on their own (or if they may not be comfortable asking for certain kinds of support, like in the case of mental health concerns or grief).
- https://www.willowcollectivefoco.com/family-resources Again, you can navigate to this from the “resource” tab of the menu on the homepage.
As for the resources above, the goal of the provider resources, in particular, is to make it easy for them to share materials and additional information with families about key topics like pregnancy and early childhood mental health resources.
“We want to make it as easy as possible and also a natural part of the discussions they’re already having with the adults they serve,” Wurster said. “[Implementing systems change for infant mental health] has been a long time coming. Through this project, we’re finally getting community traction, which feels exciting.”
The initial pilot program will wrap up in early fall, but plans for continued collaboration are already in place. Look for an update on this exciting work this fall as a more in-depth article will outline the outcomes of the project, key insights, and future plans.