Boone County looks to expand mental health initiatives for young children

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COLUMBIA — Boone County is looking into a new mental health initiative to help the county's youngest residents.

The Boone County Children's Services Board is considering spending $4 million over two years as part of a program promoting social and emotional health.

Kelly Wallis, the director of Boone County Community Services, said this program targets kids from birth through kindergarten.

"We're seeking for prevention efforts, so promoting social emotional health before there is any problems with the child," Wallis said, adding the program can be anything from implementing curriculum into a child care center or any social emotional development program.

"We just want to focus more on our efforts around prevention and focus on early childhood, preventing any crisis situations from happening or preventing children from ever fallen behind in school or with development," Wallis said. 

Wallis said the funding will come from the Children's Service fund, which brings in a quarter-cent sales tax voters that passed in 2012. 

She said through the Children's Service fund, the board currently funds 34 different programs.

"[The program will] provide quality and affordable early childhood education for the children of northern Boone County, regardless of social or economic status, in an environment that is safe, as well as educationally and developmentally appropriate," Kim Harvey, the executive director at Harrisburg Early Learning Center stated the mission of its early childhood program in an email. 

Harvey also wrote, "It will be a great benefit to children's social, emotional, and mental health development at an early age to help them in later years to succeed in life."

Wallis said she hopes a proposal will be approved early next year.