OBH Partner Spotlight: Invest in Kids Launches Child First Serving Families

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Invest in Kids is an OBH sub-contractor receiving High-Risk Families Cash Funds to implement Child First—a national, evidence-based, two-generation, trauma-informed, home-visiting model that works with young children and their caregivers who are most impacted by systemic and structural inequities through intensive, home-based services. Each family works alongside a two-person team within the home consisting of a licensed mental health clinician with experience in early childhood development, and a care coordinator who works with the entire family on sources of stress, and to connect them with resources. In this blog post, Child First Program Director Marisa A. Guillicksrud, LCSW, offers a glimpse into her team’s efforts to roll out the program’s first cohort.

Marisa Gullicksrud Headshot

July 12 was a HUGE milestone for Invest in Kids’ (IIK) newest program, Child First®! It marked the day that IIK began enrolling our first Colorado families into the program. It is also nearly two years to the day that IIK began our deep dive into researching and selecting Child First as the latest addition to the IIK array of programs.

Child First Cohort 1 includes four agencies: Aurora Mental Health Center (serving Adams, Arapahoe, & Douglas counties), Savio House (serving Adams and El Paso Counties), the Tennyson Center for Children (serving Boulder, Broomfield, and Jefferson Counties) and the San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group (serving Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande, and Saguache counties). We are tremendously grateful for the leadership of these agencies and appreciate their willingness to take on the challenges associated with being the first group. Together, affiliate agencies are working alongside IIK and the Child First National Service Office to manage any unforeseen implementation challenges and to embark on this new chapter together.

Clinical teams at each of the four Cohort 1 agencies are now receiving Child First referrals and building their caseloads. Referrals can be made directly to each agency or through IIK’s REACH Coordinator, Kimberly Hirst (khirst@iik.org). As we begin receiving referrals, we will better understand how our long-term financing plans work and what more we may need to do to sustain the Child First program. We feel very confident in the sites’ ability to bill Medicaid, secure Child Welfare dollars, and access additional funding sources, if needed, to maintain services in perpetuity.

IIK’s is grateful for its strong partnership with the Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health (OBH), whose support has been key to standing up the first Child First cohort. To date, OBH has invested funding from the High-Risk Families Cash Fund and recently notified us that they will invest an additional $1.5 million from stimulus block grant funds over two years (FY 2021-22 and FY 2022-23) to set up a second cohort of agencies that will deliver Child First services. We are thrilled to have launched Cohort 1 and to learn about OBH’s continued support to expand our reach to more infants, young children and their caregivers.