Mental Health at Every Visit
Mental health is a part of every aspect of our lives. How we interact with the world relies as much on our physical well-being as our emotional well-being. As such, Any Baby Can integrates mental health into every one of our programs.
The last few years have been hard on parents, and that is directly reflected in the increased demand for Any Baby Can’s counseling program No Estás Solo (NES), which means “you are not alone” in Spanish. Our licensed therapists work with clients and their families to explore and process life’s challenges. As a result, this offering has been invaluable to families in our programs. However, it is not the only way we support the emotional well-being of client families.
Our programs include mental health supports in funding proposals, and prioritize mental health first aid and trauma training for staff. The unique role we play, by integrating services within the structure of families, puts Any Baby Can in a position to truly address prevention and treatment of mental health conditions.
Mental Health Crisis in Texas
Mental health challenges can impact all individuals in a household. It can disrupt their ability to work, provide caregiving, and participate in their community. Children whose caregivers have untreated mental health conditions are more likely to have behavioral or developmental disorders. Untreated mental health conditions for mothers in Texas compounds to individual, child and societal outcomes, including a huge total societal cost of $2.2 billion overall and $962 million to Medicaid, just looking at the first five years of a child’s life.(1)
Parents and caregivers in our programs face high levels of stress, leading to increased incidents of anxiety and depression. The issue is compounded by poverty, racism, lack of access to healthcare, and other systemic obstacles.
Every Visit is an Opportunity
Any Baby Can staff who work directly with clients bring a mental health lens into every visit. Every time they interact with a client, they’re keeping an eye on the family’s dynamics, mood and stressors. This is done informally through conversation and observation, and more formally through professional psychiatric and risk-assessment screenings. In addition, Moms are screened for depression and interpersonal violence, and children are screened for early evidence of social-emotional or behavioral issues. If a nurse or case manager believes the client (or any of their household members) would benefit from professional counseling, they can refer them to NES or other partner agencies for individual, couples or family counseling.
Our clinical services are led by Marisol Acosta, who is a member and trainer for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and an expert in trauma-informed care and children’s mental health. The NES team trains staff in all programs to implement mental health screenings, as well as how to appropriately refer an individual to counseling or crisis services. Staff is also trained in trauma and crisis intervention. Specifically, our staff understand how to work with our client population based on demographics and racial and cultural backgrounds. The NES leadership team also offers consultation to service staff about how to work with clients exhibiting mental health issues.
In addition, each program has mental health training specific to the clients they serve, such as children, pregnant and post-partum women, and parents of children with special healthcare needs.
Last year, Any Baby Can was selected to participate in the Brain Story Certification, an intensive, year-long program to gain a better understanding of the role that early childhood experiences, trauma and brain development have on the lifelong health of an individual. Following this training, we identified and began to implement ways to be more trauma-informed throughout the organization.
Wrap-Around Support and Interventions
There’s a wide range of offerings for families seeking emotional support beyond direct, regular counseling sessions. Any Baby Can offers parent support groups for clients and the broader community. The groups are offered in English and Spanish and bring together parents with shared interests such as: maternal mental health, pregnancy support, and caregiving for children with special healthcare needs.
In addition, Any Baby Can has funds for targeted respite activities for parents and children. Respite events give parents a break from their caregiving role, and have direct and tangible benefits on the well-being of the family, including the children.
Reflection and Addressing our Own Needs
Furthermore, Any Baby Can also prioritizes diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and has implemented anti-racist training for all staff, including administrative staff. If we’re focused on prevention, the need to address DEI for everybody has to be a priority.
“We can’t talk about mental health without including the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, and the uniqueness of each individual and family. If we want to promote mental health and wellness, this is at the core,” says Marisol Acosta, Director of Clinical Services at Any Baby Can.
Program supervisors are aware of the impact of secondary traumatic stress on employees who see and experience what our clients are facing in their daily lives. Attention to the mental health of our workforce has also increased during the pandemic, and we are supporting staff so they can manage the stress.
In addition, our Human Resources department created an employee assistance program, which offers counseling and other support services for our staff, as well as a hybrid work model, and other policies that support the well-being of our employees. The more supported our staff feels, the better they’re able to support our client families.
As the demand and interest in mental health support continues to grow, Any Baby Can is identifying ways to continue to provide high-quality services. We’re expanding our group therapy options, as well as offering workshops for families to navigate stress. These interventions will serve a broader clientele and allow our more individualized services to be available to people in crisis. In addition, we continue to partner with agencies who can serve specific parts of our population.
Any Baby Can is working towards becoming a trauma-informed organization at all levels. Leadership is looking at ways to incorporate trauma training for all service staff, volunteers, board members, administrative staff and top leaders. Consequently, we'll have the knowledge and tools to improve the way we work with clients, and as an organization.
We give families a safe space to process life’s challenges with the support of a licensed therapist.
Any Baby Can has free, online support groups to help parents and adults manage life changes.
Learn to focus on one stressor at a time and develop appropriate responses to the situation.