By Kathy Chouteau and Mike Kinney
Richmond’s 24 Street will come alive with the sound of families when the Early Childhood Mental Health Program (ECMHP) hosts its “Summer Kick-Off” Fri., June 9 from 4-7 p.m.
The Summer Kick-Off aims to “increase the community’s awareness of our services, to share other community resources and hold a space for families to experience joy in connection with their children,” ECMHP Director of Mental Health Programs Samantha Watson-Alvarado said.
ECMHP offers a variety of family services, such as perinatal mental health services, child and family therapy, therapeutic preschool, preschool mental health consultation, wraparound, weekly support groups and family enrichment nights, according to Watson-Alvarado.
All of ECMHP’s services support the relationship between a caregiver and the young child, she said. “Our guiding principle is that a caregiver who is listened to, respected and supported can do the same for the children in their care.”
Watson-Alvarado underscored that “little kids can have big problems too” and that young children process their experiences through play—which is the vessel to healing from stressful or traumatic events. She said that conditions like anxiety have a real impact and that there’s no better time to get help than during the early childhood years.
She said ECMHP is 90 percent funded via Medi-Cal and that the program serves pregnant mothers, children (birth to 8 years old) and their families primarily in West Contra Costa County.
“Coming out of the pandemic there has been a recognition of the importance of mental health,” ECMHP Executive Director Jeff Sloan said. Just like we go to the doctor for a cold, we should be accessing mental health support for our emotional-being.” Sloan thinks the pandemic helped people realize that mental health is an important part of our lives.
“I believe that part of ECMHP’s mission is helping to normalize that supporting young children’s mental health is a part of building healthy families,” he said.
ECMHP is located at 200 24th Street in Richmond. The organization is not only welcoming community sponsors for its Summer Kick-Off, but also support for its program via volunteering or financial or material donations. Community organizations and local business wanting to sponsor or participate in the event should contact Vanice Robinson at [email protected]. Those wanting to lend their support in other ways should visit ECMHP’s website.