United Way funds First Things First childhood mental health program

U.S. Rep Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., talks with a child being served at the Morenci Early Learning Center during a 2017 tour of the Gila Valley’s childhood development programs facilitated by First Things First

SAFFORD —The United Way of Graham and Greenlee Counties has granted about $25,000 to First Things First Graham/Greenlee Region to help expand childhood mental health consultation services in the two county region.

The funds will be used to add the services to two childcare centers, bringing the total number of centers in the two counties providing childhood mental health services to five.

It’s expected about 150 children across the two counties will benefit from the funding.

“It’s amazing the challenges that children face at such a young age,” said Shari Elkins, First Things First regional director for Graham and Greenlee counties. “They have so many things they’re seeing in their homes and lives. Early childhood mental health consultation provides teachers with some tools and strategies that they can use in the classroom to help the child.”

The program being funded calls for the early childhood teacher to discuss a child’s behavior challenges with the mental health consultant and the consultant visits the class to observe the interaction between the child and teacher, child and other children, as well as the drop-off and pick-up with the parent.

The consultant, working with the teacher and parent, provides suggestions and strategies for the teacher to try in the classroom and for the parent to try at home with the child.

“The goal is for everyone to be successful,” Elkins said.