The Children’s Center Commissions Report Exploring Early Childhood Mental Health Services Needs in Utah

Salt Lake City—December 9, 2020—The Children’s Center, a Utah-based center offering mental health services to infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families, commissioned a groundbreaking study titled Early Childhood Mental Health in Utah, conducted by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, that overviews Utah’s current children’s mental health system and uses Utah-specific data and information to analyze risk, reach and potential return on investment in terms of children’s mental health in Utah.

The study creates a foundation for ongoing discussions about how to improve access to much-needed early childhood mental health services given varying risk factors and program distribution among different populations and regions throughout the state.

“We are so grateful for the Gardner Institute in helping us complete this impactful study,” said Rebecca Dutson, president and CEO of The Children’s Center. “Utah’s effort to enhance children’s mental health services is ongoing, and studies like this provide important information to help us pave the path to better mental health resources for children and their families in Utah. We’re excited for what the future has to bring and what The Children’s Center can do for Utah’s children’s mental health!”

Highlights from the report include the following:

  • Based on a range of estimates from national studies, 10‒20% of Utah’s 458,000 children between the ages of 0‒8 could experience mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral challenges.
  • National cost estimates of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders among youth are $247 billion per year in mental health and health services, lost productivity, and crime (Eisenberg and Neighbors, 2007).
  • Different groups of children experience varying degrees of risk and access. For instance, some mental health professionals do not feel comfortable providing services to young children (e.g., 0‒4-yr-olds). Additionally, children from racial and ethnic minority populations frequently face a disproportionate likelihood of experiencing risks related to a greater need for early childhood mental health services.
  • More education is needed to help parents, physicians, school leaders, and the general population understand the importance of early childhood development and mental health, and the long-term benefits, both personal and societal, of investing in programs that support early childhood mental health.

“Supporting a child’s mental health at a young age can make a notable difference in their current and future health, as well as a range of other life outcomes, including avoiding costly future services and lost productivity associated with a failure to address mental health needs at an early age.,” said Samantha Ball, Gardner Institute Senior Research Analyst and lead author of the report. “We are pleased to have had the opportunity to work on a topic with significant ramifications for Utah children’s health and potential.”

Based on the study’s findings, The Children’s Center hopes to generate awareness, and drive resources upstream to improve children’s mental health systems and services across Utah. The full report is now available at:



Established in 1962, The Children’s Center is the only organization in Utah and the Mountain West offering trauma-informed, evidence-based treatment for very young children and their families. The Children’s Center’s mission is to provide comprehensive mental health care to enhance the emotional well-being of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families. As the regional experts in children’s mental health, The Children’s Center offers individual and family therapy for mental and behavioral health challenges faced by young children, as well as treatment for trauma exposure and programs for children diagnosed with autism. For more information, visit


The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute serves Utah by preparing economic, demographic and public policy research that helps the state prosper. We are Utah’s demographic experts, leaders on the Utah economy, and specialists on public policy and survey research. We are an honest broker of INFORMED RESEARCH, which guides INFORMED DISCUSSIONS, and leads to INFORMED DECISIONS™. For more information, please visit or call 801-587-3717.


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