Project LAUNCH


Project LAUNCH: A Brief Update 

By Jennifer A. Oppenheim, PsyD
Coordinator, Project LAUNCH 

As we approach the end of the first year of Project LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health), we are excited to share some of the promising developments and early successes of our grantees. Project LAUNCH continues to expand and we are happy to announce 12 new grant recipients in California, The District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon and Wisconsin.  

Project LAUNCH is a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-funded program that seeks to ensure the healthy development of all young children (birth to age 8). The overarching goal of Project LAUNCH is for all children to enter school ready to succeed and experience successes in the early grades. We believe children will thrive in school if they have the tools, resources and supports needed to achieve their maximum potential across all developmental domains: physical, social, emotional, cognitive and behavioral. Project LAUNCH seeks to provide this comprehensive support.  

State maternal and child health agencies and tribal nations are the recipients of LAUNCH grants. Grantees build on existing infrastructure and programs (i.e., Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Initiative), with a focus on coordination, collaboration and systems integration at the state/tribal level. Each grantee also works in a single community that serves as a pilot or incubator for developing new systems strategies and implementing best practices in early childhood prevention and wellness promotion.  

At the community level, a Council on Young Child Wellness brings together stakeholders, providers, parents and others concerned with the wellbeing of young children to engage in a process of planning and oversight. Grantees are responsible for implementing a range of promising and best practices aimed at promoting wellness and preventing social, emotional and behavioral disorders. The specific programs or services that each community implements are based on the unique needs, strengths, and resources of that community; however, all grantees must include the following five strategies: 

  • Home visiting
  • Use of developmental assessments in a range of child-serving settings
  • Integration of behavioral health into primary care settings
  • Mental health consultation
  • Family strengthening and parent skills training 

LAUNCH communities use evidence-based practices to prevent negative outcomes and promote healthy development among children and families. These include programs like Parents as Teachers, Incredible Years, Strengthening Families and Healthy Steps. Grantees are also expanding the use of developmental assessments (including social and emotional components) in primary care, child care, educational and other settings.  

Current LAUNCH grantees (Arizona, Maine, New Mexico, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Rhode Island, and Washington) are developing creative new mechanisms for providing integrated, comprehensive and coordinated services. Examples include: 

  • A bridging program to create continuity of care for parents of high-risk babies born and treated in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) far from home. Staff help expectant mothers to prepare for delivery; train NICU staff about infant mental health and the needs of families; and offer wraparound services for families so that they are able to manage complex medical, social, and emotional challenges when they return home
  • A program that helps parents in busy, hospital-based pediatric clinics to complete comprehensive developmental screens, and facilitates successful referrals for further assessment and treatment
  • A partnership between Head Start and a local elementary school to improve the transition to kindergarten, including joint trainings for staff
  • A childhood obesity prevention/intervention program integrated into Head Start classrooms
  • A two-day training focused on meeting the needs of children of incarcerated parents for law enforcement, direct service providers, faith-based organizations, and school staff  

In the first year of Project LAUNCH, grantees have broken down barriers, facilitated connections across agencies, and experimented with new ways of providing services. Many developments have been interesting if unanticipated. Challenging economic times and shrinking state budgets have spurred collaboration. The state/local partnership has proven to be powerful, but requires work and attention. States have responded to local barriers to integrated services by working toward new, coordinated policies; and local communities have developed innovations for improving practice that states have embraced and begun to replicate. 

For more information on Project LAUNCH, please visit here or contact Program Coordinator Jennifer Oppenheim or call (240) 276-1862.