There’s something special happening here.
In response to many children not entering school ready to learn, GGUW convened Success By 6, a collaboration of multi-sector partners including, MSU Dept of Education, THRIVE, MSU Early Childhood, Community Health Partners, Gallatin City/County Health Department, area school districts, Child Care Connections and other organizations. The focus was on forming a framework for planning and implementing future work to support a “whole child” approach to education, focusing on both cognitive skills and the child’s social and emotional development.
In 2010, as part of community early childhood discussions, a joint grant application was submitted to MT Depatment of Public Health and Human Services (MT DPHHS) Early Childhood Services Bureau with GGUW as the lead agency. Our community was one of seven in the state to receive Best Beginnings grant for $135,000 over a two-year period to conduct a comprehensive assessment of early childhood services in our region in order to identify assets and gaps and discover methods for connecting with system users – the parents. At the same time MT DPHHS Public Health Bureau was awarded a grant to conduct similar work. The state then combined the two funds. The Best Beginnings Coordinator began working closely with the Gallatin County/City Health Department to develop a work plan for collecting and analyzing the data. Strategic planning meetings were held with over 30 community partners working together to advance the project. GGUW's Executive Director, Carol Townsend, was appointed to the Governor’s Best Beginnings Council. In 2013, a comprehensive needs assessment was delivered to the community. 2013 Early Childhood Community Needs Assessment
GGUW continued to act as the lead agency and fiscal agent for the coalition, now named Early Childhood Community Council (ECCC). In 2014, a MT Compact VISTA employed by ECCC completed a health and human resource guide for the community, 2014 Community Resource Guide, as part of the councils work. The community-wide coalition continues to promote thriving children from birth through age eight. ECCC provides leadership to community partners with the goal of creating an efficient, effective and comprehensive system of early childhood services in the Greater Gallatin area to ensure that every child has a healthy and enriched beginning.
Coalition partners include: ASMSU Child Care Center, A.W.A.R.E. Inc., Belgrade Community Library, Belgrade Public Schools, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Gallatin County, Bozeman Public Library, Bozeman Public Schools, Child Care Connections, Child Development Center, Children’s Museum of Bozeman, City of Bozeman Recreation Department, Community Health Partners (Gallatin & Park Counties), Family Promise, Family Outreach, Gallatin City-County Health Department, Gallatin Mental Health Center, Gallatin Valley Food Bank, Gallatin Valley YMCA, Greater Gallatin United Way, HRDC Head Start, Livingston Public Schools, Montana Team Nutrition, Montana State University Child Development Center, Montana State University College of Education, Health & Human Development, Montana State University Early Childhood Project, Museum of the Rockies, Park County Community Foundation, Thrive and Youth Dynamics.
Currently, Gallatin ECCC, Greater Gallatin United Way, Childcare Connections, Gallatin Mental Health Center, Thrive, Early Childhood Project, Gallatin City-County Health Department and Community Health Partners are partnering in Montana Project LAUNCH Initiative (MT-PLI). Montana Project LAUNCH Initiative (MT-PLI) is an $800,000 per year, 5-year federal SAMSHA grant received by Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) in September 2014. The goal of the initiative is to engage Montana’s early childhood partners to improve systems and access to mental health services for young children and families in our rural state while piloting evidence-based practices in Gallatin and Park Counties. 2014 Project Launch Briefing Sheet
MT-PLI will implement the following interventions in Gallatin and Park Counties:
- Universal Screening using the Ages and Stages Questionnaire-3 (ASQ-3TM) and Ages and Stages Questionnaire: Social Emotional (ASQ:SE).
- Integration of behavioral health into primary care settings.
- Mental health consultation in early care and education.
- Enhanced Parents as Teachers home visiting with increased focus on social and emotional wellbeing.
- Family strengthening and parent skills training using the Incredible Years Program.
The MT-PLI will also fund local and state level infrastructure development activities, led by the state Best Beginnings Advisory Council (BBAC) and the local Best Beginning Coalition already working to improve early childhood systems.
The MT-PLI aims to reduce disparities in mental health outcomes, improve the mental health status and realize healthy children in healthy families.
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Early Childhood Services Bureau, Children’s Mental Health Bureau and the Family and Community Health Bureau are working collaboratively to implement this grant at the state level and oversee the local work.
In 2016, the ECCC Leadership Council expanded its membership from 12 to 20 members including two new parent representatives. The ECCC focused on social-emotional support for young children and their families by promoting accessible high-quality early care and education to help prevent child abuse and neglect, supporting successful Kindergarten transition, and fostering personal resilience in youth and families.
ECCC reached over 1,100 community members in 2016 through a variety of events and activities including the Resilience Conference which drew more than 165 attendees, multiple community screenings of the Paper Tigers documentary, Bozeman Preschool Fair and Parade of Preschools, Belgrade Community Library Family Nights, and the Week of the Young Child Carnival. Many ECCC partners were also able to receive training on topics such as Collective Impact, Trauma-Informed Care, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), prevention of secondary trauma/empathy fatigue/self-care, and facilitated leadership.
ECCC also distributed over 1,000 new and gently used books through kidsLINK Afterschool and to partner organizations serving children and families in southwest Montana. Partners include AWARE, Thrive, Gallatin City-County Health Departments, Livingston elementary schools, Belgrade Middle School, Family Promise of Gallatin Valley, and the Meagher County Library in White Sulphur Springs.
This December, GGUW had the unique opportunity to partner with Slumberland Furniture 40-Winks Foundation for a “Making Homes for Holidays” event. ECCC and the kidsLINK Afterschool Program took the lead on planning and executing the event. 21 low-income families received 32 new children’s bed sets. The families, many of whom are kidsLINK Afterschool Program scholarship recipients, received beds and expressed their gratitude at an afternoon celebration at Slumberland. Families in need of beds for their children also included ECCC program partners such as Family Promise and area school counselors. GGUW volunteers and staff delivered the beds using trucks donated from U-Haul of Bozeman. We plan to continue this partnership with Slumberland in 2017.
A few examples of the impact of MT Project LAUNCH so far include: funded the hire of a labor and delivery nurse at Gallatin City-County Health Department to do one-time needs assessments with expectant moms and engage warm hand-off practices for more successful referrals to community resources. They partnered with OB/GYN providers who agreed to refer all first-time or teen expectant mothers who use tobacco products, and/or have a history of mental health concerns to the Project LAUNCH staff for home visiting support. All home visitors are now being cross-trained on mental health topics including suicidal ideation, perinatal mood disorders, and early childhood mental health and medication. Home visitors also have regular access to a clinician who provides mental health consultation on cases.
This past year the GCCHD nurse home visitor, Jess Wagner, R.N., was referred an 18-year-old first-time mother with a history of sexual abuse at 15 weeks pregnant. The referral came out of her interactions and education on the benefits of early referrals with the Women’s Specialists clinic out of Bozeman Health. The mother was struggling with preeclampsia early in her pregnancy, so Jess prioritized blood pressure management, which was a part of every home visit. Jess also facilitated the baby’s father’s re-engagement with the pregnant mother, and he attended every home visit. Jess also helped the mother get on pregnancy Medicaid, and continues to provide support to navigate that system. The mother has also benefited from connections to other food and living support options that can be overwhelming, especially to a new mom.
The care team for this family believes that the Project LAUNCH collaboration between the Health Department and OB/GYN was critical in supporting the mother in preventive strategies so as to avoid pre-term delivery, health concerns for mom and baby, and emotional crisis that could have resulted from her mental health concerns. The mother was able to carry the baby to term with very little medical intervention at birth. And even though she was hesitant to breast feed due to her abuse history, Jess’s education and support through that process has resulted in successful breastfeeding, even one month after the baby’s birth. Jess collaborated with a Health Department lactation consultant in case additional support was needed.
The “early referral” collaboration has resulted in some referrals that would have been missed or referred at the point of such crisis, that simple and inexpensive interventions, such as the ones outlined in this story. GGUW’s role in coordinating the MT Project LAUNCH Initiative in Gallatin and Park counties has led to improvements in social emotional supports for youth in childcare settings as well!