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Project LAUNCH Seeks to Identify Children At-Risk for Drug Abuse and Other Health Issues

For Immediate Release

Contact: Fran Gallagher, NJAAP Executiive Director
Michael Weinstein, Communications Director
Phone: (609) 842-0014

The New Jersey Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics (NJAAP), working closely with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH), announced the kickoff of Project LAUNCH, a forward-thinking public health initiative that advocates for a broader use of developmental screening tools, including tools that identify children at-risk for substance abuse, among pediatricians for patients up to 8 years of age.

As part of a larger national initiative, Project LAUNCH in New Jersey strives to advance developmental health outcomes of infants and children in Essex County by increasing access to vital physical and mental health services and reducing racial and ethnic disparities.  Funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Project LAUNCH emphasizes the importance - and life-long benefits - of implementing routine developmental screenings early in a child's life.

Employing a Help Me Grow systems approach that cultivates connections between physicians, parents, families, and community, Project LAUNCH strives to ensure that all children and families have ready access to a broad range of services that support the physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral aspects of child development.

"The earlier in life we become aware of the emotional and developmental challenges confronting our children and their family, the sooner we can begin connecting them to effective health and social support programs," says NJAAP Executive Director Fran Gallagher.

Physiological and emotional secondary health issues resulting from undiagnosed and unaddressed adverse childhood experiences may be prevented with earlier interventions.  For example, substance abuse is highest in families where there is domestic violence, child abuse, and/or untreated mental health issues.  Pediatric healthcare providers see young children for 12 visits in the first three years of life, plus sick visits.  Early identification of toxic stress, trauma, and developmental delays makes early interventions and supports possible.

"Substance abuse robs children and families of health, happiness, and their overall well-being," said DCF Commissioner Allison Blake.  "Our focus on developmental screenings to identify potential health issues earlier in childhood supports New Jersey's commitment to aid children and families affected by addiction, depression, domestic violence, and other adverse experiences.  Combating and preventing substance abuse and other toxic stress triggers is a high priority for the Christie administration, making Project LAUNCH a pillar in the state's inter-departmental plan to combat substance abuse."

Developmental screening and surveillance in the primary care setting is critical to ensuring children and their families get access to the support they need," said DOH Deputy Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito.  "New Jersey has a strong network of maternal, infant and early childhood services that encompass prevention, early intervention, early childhood education and clinical treatment services and this new initiative will enhance our efforts to help children lead healthy and productive lives.

NJAAP - The mission of the New Jersey Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics is the attainment of optimal health, safety and well-being of New Jersey's children (infants, children, adolescents, young adults) and promotion of pediatricians (primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists, pediatric surgical specialists) as the best qualified of all health professionals to provide child healthcare.

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