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Reflections and Highlights from FY 2020


CHDI's President and CEO Jeffrey Vanderploeg reflects back on a challenging year for many children, families, providers and organizations.  We are grateful for our partners who collaborated with us to improve the health and well-being of children and families. 

View CHDI's FY 2020 Highlights infographic.

Letter from the President

Dear Colleagues,

2020 has presented numerous challenges to children, families, communities, and organizations in Connecticut, across the country, and across the world. The year will forever be marked by the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, a national reckoning around racism and injustice, and a contentious political climate. In the midst of such significant economic, political, and social unrest, now more than ever, we must rally around children and families to support their health and well-being. CHDI has remained steadfast, and has adapted to the changing environment throughout the year. Reflecting back on this year, I am deeply grateful to our staff, our Board of Directors, and our many partners for coming together to support children, families, and the providers that serve them.  Below are a few examples of how our collaborative efforts have helped advance children’s health and well-being.

FULL Highlights Infographic.jpg

  • Early detection of behavioral health and developmental concerns in pediatric primary care. Primary care providers play a critical role in administering validated screening instruments to support early detection of health concerns. Despite significant disruptions to primary care practices this year, the number of children screened in primary care continues to rise. This year, 73,262 developmental screens (3% increase), 53,756 behavioral health screens (first year of data), and 39,635 maternal depression screens (24% increase) were billed to Medicaid.
  • Behavioral health training in residency programs. There is a significant need to build the capacity of pediatric health care providers to identify and address behavioral health concerns. This year, with funding from the Children’s Fund of Connecticut, we provided grants to residency programs who are training the next generation of pediatric health care providers: Asylum Hill (Family Medicine), Community Health Centers (Nurse Practitioners), Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (Pediatrics), and Yale University (Pediatrics & Nurse Practitioners).
  • Supporting health innovations. CHDI and the Children’s Fund provided grants to develop behavioral health acuity assessment and triage decision-making tools for children presenting to emergency departments. We also funded a series of grants to document health innovations that emerged during the pandemic, and that can be sustained post-COVID.
  • Identification of trauma exposure and symptoms in children. Trauma exposure and other adverse childhood experiences are a public health epidemic. A new five-year grant from SAMHSA will support CHDI’s efforts to screen children for trauma exposure and ensure referral to evidence-based treatments. With this new grant, thousands of children each year who are involved in the behavioral health, child welfare, juvenile justice, and pediatric health care systems will be screened for trauma exposure and symptoms using the Child Trauma Screen, which was developed by CHDI and its partners.
  • Delivery of evidence-based children’s behavioral health treatments. The number of children benefitting from evidence-based treatments continues to rise. This year, over 2,700 children received an evidence-based treatment. Results of a CHDI study found evidence-based treatments improve outcomes and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in outcomes, as compared to usual care. With support from the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, the State Department of Education, and the Judicial Branch’s Court Support Services Division, cutting-edge behavioral health treatments; such as Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), the Modular Approach to Therapy for Children (MATCH), and the Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) are now available statewide.
  • Diversion from arrest and exclusionary discipline in schools. Our School Based Diversion (SBDI) worked with ten schools in four school districts to reduce the number of students impacted by exclusionary discipline, such as arrest and out-of-school suspensions, and increased access to alternative behavioral health services and supports. These schools averaged a 32% decrease in school-based arrests and a 34% decrease in out-of-school suspensions. To date, CHDI has worked with nearly 60 schools to implement SBDI, and this year, CHDI was involved in efforts to train schools in Maryland, Michigan, and Louisiana to implement similar approaches.
  • Commitment to health equity and racial justice. In May, the murder of George Floyd spurred CHDI to closely examine and improve our work in the areas of health equity and racial justice. Our internal Committee on Anti-Racism and Equity (CARE) sought consultation from Health Equity Solutions, issued a public statement opposing racism, curated and disseminated numerous resources for CHDI staff on addressing racism, and successfully applied to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s learning community on becoming an anti-racist organization.

While we are proud of our work and our accomplishments this year, we are keenly aware of the challenges that lie ahead. Early access to high-quality behavioral health treatment in home, school, and community-based settings continues to be a top priority. We need to reform reimbursement and service delivery to support primary care’s ability to promote health and well-being and prevent illness. Connecticut will need nothing short of the dedicated and collective action of a multitude of public and private partners to confront the racism that pervades all our systems, and to redress persistent disparities in access, quality, and outcomes of behavioral health and primary care services. These are significant challenges, but we look forward to another year of partnership with state agencies, payers, providers, advocates, and communities as we take on this important work together.

Best Wishes, 

Jeffrey J. Vanderploeg, Ph.D.
President and CEO
Child Health and Development Institute
Children’s Fund of Connecticut