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Georgia Allies Leverage Alabama Early Childhood Mental Health Progress for Big Wins in Their Own State

After advocating successfully for the creation of Georgia’s Legislative Study Committee on infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH) and working to ensure it had access to extensive expertise, Georgia allies at GEEARS are now celebrating the creation of the new Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) Task Force. This task force will carry out the recommendations set forth by the study committee.  Funding from DECAL and the Preschool Development Grant will support the creation of the Georgia Association for Infant Mental Health (GA-AIMH) which will establish IECMH core competencies, professional endorsements, and bring much needed training to Georgia’s workforce. This is a huge win for Georgia’s young children, their families, and their educators – and it couldn’t have happened without insight and support from an Alabama partner.

Legislative Study Committee 

The Study Committee chaired by Representative Katie Dempsey explored the importance of investing in infant and early childhood mental health in Georgia. GEEARS supported the study committee by coordinating agenda items and speakers. GEEARS recruited pediatricians and child care directors to share their experiences working with children with adverse experiences. Additionally, allies worked with the chair of the study committee, who developed the recommendations to expand infant mental health supports for Georgia’s children. Recommendations included the addition of Georgia’s first Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health State Director, Laura Lucas, and the creation of IECMH core competencies for professionals who work with young children.

Cross-state Partnership

GEEARS partnered with the State of Alabama’s Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health State Coordinator, Dallas Rabig, to learn from their experience in implementing a system of IECMH.  GEEARS invited Rabig to testify before the study committee on Alabama’s journey in creating a statewide system for IECMH. Georgia allies also received insight on creating messaging and building a system of care for early childhood. Georgia allies also participated in Alabama’s infant early childhood mental health initiative, called Project Launch to learn more about the system of care. The collaborative partnership grew from a chance meeting at the Home Visiting Summit in 2019. Callan Wells, GEEARS’ Health Policy Manager initiated a relationship with Dallas Rabig at the conference which led to a cross-state collaborative relationship.

These efforts will support all of Georgia’s young children and provide support for child-serving agencies to advance infant early childhood mental health services. GEEARS will continue their advocacy efforts to ensure that the recommendations are implemented successfully.