Wheeler’s Integrated Health Care Team is the First in Connecticut to Implement HealthySteps Model to Foster Positive Parenting, Child Development

A secure parent-child bond is critical to a child’s development because it fosters a sense of security, self-esteem, and resilience. This bond is an essential building block for helping a child to form strong relationships with peers and others.

As part of a comprehensive effort to meet the mental health and primary care needs of its youngest patients, Wheeler is implementing HealthySteps, a program of ZERO TO THREE, designed to strengthen parent-child bonds through screening, referral, and treatment. The program serves children birth through five years old who receive pediatric services at Wheeler’s Family Health & Wellness Center at 43 Woodland Street in Hartford. Wheeler’s integrated health care team, comprising a pediatrician, a senior integrated health care psychologist, medical and dental assistants, care and practice managers, early childhood professionals, social workers, and others, were trained in this model on June 19 and 20.

Pictured are leaders from HealthySteps and members of Wheeler’s integrated health care team.

HealthySteps is a national evidence-based, interdisciplinary pediatric primary care program that promotes positive parenting and healthy development for babies and toddlers, with an emphasis on serving families living in low-income communities. The program focuses on the importance of early screening and intervention in children birth to three.

“We are thrilled that Wheeler is the first to implement this program in Connecticut and look forward to meeting the needs of children and families in Greater Hartford,” said Rahil D. Briggs, Psy.D., national director of HealthySteps. “There is no time more important for young children’s brain development than the first few years of life, when they also happen to visit their pediatrician and pediatric care team often—12 to 13 times in the first few years of life. We will work closely with the Family Health & Wellness Center team to leverage the value of those frequent visits and further encourage secure parent-child bonds.”

“The pediatric setting is the one place where every baby will show up to be seen by members of a comprehensive care system,” said Matthew Melmed, J.D., executive director of ZERO TO THREE. “This program positions and equips all members of the integrated care team to support the unique needs of the parent and the child.”

Wheeler’s HealthySteps program is part of the organization’s Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) Program, which works with families receiving services through Wheeler’s Hartford-based Family Health & Wellness Center whose infants and children, age birth to 12, have experienced trauma, and/or are at risk for, show early signs of, or have been diagnosed with developmental delays, a mental illness, or Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). The IECMH program, in partnership with St. Francis Hospital, provides services for infants born with NAS. The IECMH program is funded by a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and offers a continuum of early childhood services based on the needs of the child and their caregivers through multiple service components, including workforce development, outreach, screening, and direct services.

The program started in June 2019.

For information about Wheeler’s HealthySteps program, call Flora Murphy, LCSW, program manager, Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health Program, at 860.520.6215, or FMurphy@Wheelerclinic.org.

Back to Top