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

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah strives to be a national leader in addressing mental health issues, including the mental health of the youngest Utahns.

The Children’s Center Utah raises awareness and gives hope to those children and their families. On Thursday, they hosted the third annual Utah Early Childhood Mental Health Summit.

In many ways, the pandemic has exposed mental health issues 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 care.

“It is my passion to make sure everyone understands that mental health is just as important as physical health,” the governor said at the online summit. It was attended by business, community and state leaders along with mental health professionals.

The governor and first lady believe that the mental health of Utahns is just as important as physical health, and that we should treat it that way, even with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

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

The President of the Children’s Center said that as a community we are starting to recognize that kids that age have mental health and that addressing their challenges has lifelong positive consequences.

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

After last year’s summit, there has already been collaboration to provide a baseline estimate of the need for mental health services for young children.

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 to estimate the long-term value of early childhood mental health in Utah.

“When we work with small children, we build for future generations when we meet early needs,” said Abby Cox.

Dutson explained that when the mental health issues that children can face at a young age are addressed by working with them and their families, it teaches them the skills they need. It has lasting positive effects for the child and the whole family.

“While our children have always had a need for mental health, 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 statewide to train caregivers and provide care for families. The ultimate goal is to bring hope and healing to families when they are most vulnerable.

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