The Utah Early Childhood Mental Health Summit, held Thursday, was hosted virtually by Governor Spencer Cox and First Lady Abby Cox. The couple encouraged listeners to be builders and bring about game-changing change in children’s lives through mental health services. (Utah Early Childhood Mental Health Summit)
Estimated reading time: 5-6 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Governor Spencer Cox and First Lady Abby Cox co-hosted the third annual Ready! Resilient! Utah Summit on Early Childhood Mental Health Thursday, encouraging Utahans to be builders of “our most valuable citizens.”
The first lady said she was committed to raising awareness about children’s mental health. She believes the State of Utah can have a significant positive impact on the lives of Utahans by addressing the mental health needs of children.
“When we meet early needs, we build for the next generation,” said Abby Cox. “The need is great, and now is the time to act to ensure that all children have access to mental health services.”
During the online webinar, Abby Cox discussed research that shows unmet mental health needs in early childhood affect overall life outcomes such as poverty rates, involvement in the criminal justice system and Moreover.
She said strong links have also been found between poor mental health and increased social media, leading children to fewer social interactions and losing years of social maturity.
“We can be an upstream leader in addressing mental health,” she said. “We can ensure that every child has the opportunity to thrive. There is nothing more important to us than the children of this state. Let’s put them on the path to the future. Let’s give them the gift of a lifetime of connection and belonging.”
The governor spoke about his efforts to integrate the response to the physical and mental health needs of all Utahns. One such effort was HB365, a March 2021 bill that merged the state Department of Health with the Department of Human Services to create the new Utah Department of Health and Human Services. .
I am passionate about making sure everyone understands that mental health is just as important as physical health; they are inextricably linked and we have treated them separately for far too long.
-Governor. spencer cox
“I’m passionate about everyone understanding that mental health is just as important as physical health; they’re inextricably linked and we’ve treated them separately for far too long,” Spencer Cox said.
The more we understand about health, health outcomes, social determinants and health disparities in Utah, the better we can overcome these disparities, according to the governor.
The summit, hosted by the Children’s Center Utah and the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, had Dr. Jessica Pryce, director of the Floridan Institute for Child Welfare at Florida State University, as the keynote speaker.
“How could we, as leaders, force our systems to look at the roots and foundations of our organizations,” Pryce asked the audience.
She suggests that people look at the system they’re a part of, look at the foundations, and decide how best to fix it, which could mean rebuilding it from scratch.
She linked this to her expertise in the child welfare system and how she does things differently because she wants different results. Instead of working toward scalable change, which she defined as small tweaks to the child welfare system to help families, she now wants to deliver revolutionary change — or deep, transformational change that strengthens families.
We can ensure that every child has the opportunity to thrive. There is nothing more important to us than the children of this state. Let’s put them on the road to the future. Let’s give them the gift of a lifetime of connection and belonging.
–Abby Cox, First Lady of Utah
When working with vulnerable families, Pryce said we should empower families to set and achieve their own goals instead of just letting the child welfare system tell them what to do. She stressed the importance of providing these families with the medical and mental care they need so they can improve and thrive.
The remainder of the Mental Health Summit included the Early Childhood Mental Health Task Force, which is comprised of key stakeholders involved in all sectors of childhood mental health, discussing progress and solutions to mental health issues among Utah children.
Tanya Albornoz, prevention and student services coordinator at the Utah State Board of Education, pointed to the number of children who only access mental health services through the school, emphasizing how important it is to have evidence-based good practice in the school setting. health services.
Several task force members emphasized listening to and honoring the voice of the family to empower families to make decisions for their children.
Aimee Winder Newton, a member of the task force, is a senior adviser and director of the new Utah Office of Families, which the governor introduced in his 2022 State of the State Address.
Winder Newton said she and the governor have identified several areas where they can improve Utah’s ability to support families and make Utah the best state for families, such as:
- More family-friendly policies that employers need to implement so that parents can meet the needs of their children.
- Commit to being a trauma-informed state so that services better support children going through trauma.
- Focus on the impacts of social media on young children and how to protect them through legislation.
Winder Newton shared her experience with postpartum depression, anxiety and her son having suicidal thoughts. She said she didn’t know where to go for help when these issues arose, which made her want to improve mental health services and break the stigma around mental health issues.
“I’m excited to move forward and see how we can improve families and their ability to care for their children,” Winder Newton said.
Rebecca Dutson, President and CEO of Children’s Center Utah, concluded the webinar by expressing hope that all who listen will be builders and bring about revolutionary change so that we can “become champions for the children of Utah. “.
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