The Early Connections Network

TN Counties/Region served: Montgomery, Robertson, Sumner, Dickson, and Cheatham
Population served: Youth ages 0-5
Additional program eligibility requirements: Social, emotional, and behavioral needs

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K Town Youth Empowerment Network

The Early Connections Network (ECN) is a mental health initiative in Tennessee that includes Cheatham, Robertson, Sumner, Montgomery and Dickson counties. The ECN will develop a comprehensive System of Care (SOC) for children ages 0-5 with early childhood mental health needs and their families. The ECN seeks to transform traditional approaches to mental health care through the delivery of services that are community-based, family-driven and culturally and linguistically competent. Using trained local parent caregivers as care coordinators in collaboration with early childhood specialists, the ECN will serve a minimum of 400 unduplicated young children and their families. Special attention will be given to the children and families of military service members as the Mid-Cumberland region includes active military, reserve and National Guard units.

The ECN will be administered through the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and operated locally through the Department’s Division of Special Populations, Tennessee Voices for Children, Centerstone Community Mental Health Center and Centerstone Research Institute. The mission of the ECN is to develop a service infrastructure that will give caregivers, providers, educators, community members, and others the essential knowledge, skills, resources and support they need to respond effectively to the social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral needs of young children and their families.

The ECN seeks to achieve the following goals: (1) establish a comprehensive, sustainable SOC with a reliable infrastructure for young children ages 0-5 and their families; (2) reduce stigma and increase community awareness about early childhood mental health needs and the importance of responding to their needs early and effectively; (3) improve outcomes for young children 0-5 who have significant behavioral or relational symptoms related to trauma, parent/child interaction difficulties or impaired social emotional development; (4) provide statewide training and local coaching for providers, families, and community members regarding evidence-based practices for effectively treating early childhood mental health and social emotional needs; and (5) develop a seamless early childhood SOC using a public health model for replication in other areas of the state.

Each partner has played an integral role in Tennessee’s federally funded SOC grants to date, and together they have established a successful collaborative track record of administering community-based programs. This network’s design builds upon effective although currently fragmented initiatives already in place for young children ages 0-5 and their families. A SOC that unifies families, caregivers, teachers, providers, new partners, and natural supports in the promotion of healthy development can exponentially strengthen community-based, family-driven and culturally and linguistically competent efforts to prepare our children for school and for life.

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