One-stop-shop: Wayne State University Social Work Early Childhood Support Clinic to partner with Wayne Pediatrics and fill gap in integrated care for Detroit’s young children and parents

“When parents and children receive high-quality integrated care, young children thrive – they enter school ready to learn, they form close and connected relationships with adults and peers, and they are poised to achieve their full potential,” stated Wayne State University Social Work Associate Professor Carolyn Dayton. “Parents who receive support for depression, anxiety, and trauma-related challenges are better able to manage their symptoms, positively engage with their children, and cope with daily stressors.” Although research has shown this integrated model of care greatly benefits families, the gap in integrated health and behavioral healthcare in Detroit persists.

With the support of the Ethel & James Flinn Foundation, Wayne State’s School of Social Work is poised to place Detroit at the forefront of the integrated care movement for young children and families. Through a partnership with Wayne Pediatrics, the School of Social Work will house the new Social Work Early Childhood Support Clinic at 400 Mack Avenue in Detroit, bringing coordinated pediatric and behavioral healthcare services under one roof in fall 2023. “One familiar trusted location not only saves time for parents, but it can also help ease the burden of stigma and anxiety that can come with seeking support for a mental health disorder,” stated Principal Investigator Dayton.

The joint space will allow for ease of communication and interdisciplinary care provision between allied health professionals that social work is known for. This holistic approach to care is at the heart of the WSU social work student training philosophy. “Currently, there is a shortage in the Infant Mental Health field, so adding an interprofessional training site at the clinic will help address this need in our community, while giving social work students an urban hands-on internship experience.” Supervised by staff and faculty, students will be trained in integrated health models and clinical practice with mothers and children under the age of five. “When we empower families, we strengthen communities. The Social Work Early Childhood Support Clinic is committed to providing accessibility to behavioral health services within a general health clinic setting. The partnership between the School of Social Work and the School of Medicine is a fine example of successful interdisciplinary collaborations that benefit our students as well as the Detroit community,” said Sheryl Kubiak, dean of the WSU’s School of Social Work.

Dayton is no stranger to the importance of mental and physical health for infants, small children, and parents. An endorsed infant mental health mentor, she has provided clinical services to families of infants and young children for more than 20 years and currently serves as the associate director of the School of Social Work’s Dual Title Degree in Social Work and Infant Mental Health Program (MSW and PhD) located at the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child & Family Development. The IMH Training Program focuses on the development of clinical skills that allow the practitioner to promote healthy social-emotional development in young children using a culturally informed approach to service delivery.

According to Postpartum Support International, 15 to 20% of women experience significant symptoms of depression or anxiety during or after the birth of a child, while 1 in 7 moms and 1 in 10 dads suffer from postpartum depression. “New parents often struggle with mental health needs as they adjust to caring for a new baby,” noted Sarah Doyle, advocacy lead for the Michigan Chapter of Postpartum Support International. “We want to ensure that all families know that they’re not alone. By providing specialized mental health care to both parents and their young children, the Social Work Family Clinic will pave the way for a stronger tomorrow for young children, their families, and their communities.”

The clinic will serve children under five years and will provide integrated care to parents who are struggling with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) such as postpartum depression, anxiety, and postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder. Currently, there are no integrated PMAD clinics in Detroit and very few independent PMAD trained practitioners.

Mental health is as vital to overall wellbeing as physical health. Working in close collaboration with Wayne Pediatrics, under the direction of Dr. Herman Gray, the Social Work Family Clinic will provide care and healing to parents and young children. We are thrilled to begin offering this state-of-the-art integrated care service model to Detroit children and families. – Associate Professor Carolyn Dayton

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