With its clinical, academic and community programs, the Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health (CAECMH) at Montclair State University has made a lasting impact in the areas of autism and early childhood mental health in New Jersey in just five short years.
On May 11, the Center marks its fifth anniversary with a reception for supporters, partners and friends that will celebrate its past – and share its vision for the future. The event will also honor “Roots and Wings Award” recipients who exemplify the highest level of dedication and service to the emotional well-being of infants, children and their families.
This year’s award recipients include three women who were instrumental in establishing the Center: CAECMH Assistant Director for Consultation Services Corinne Catalano; Toni Spiotta, founding co-director of the Ben Samuels Children’s Center; and former College of Education and Human Services Dean Ada Beth Cutler, who will receive a special platinum award.
"When I think about the past five years, the most rewarding outcome is being able to serve a central role in advancing knowledge of and directing attention to early childhood mental health in New Jersey,” says Gerard Costa, director of the Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health. “Between our work with autism and early childhood mental health, I feel like we are truly living up to our name.”
Since 2012, when it was awarded a five-year, $1.5 million grant, the CAECMH has served as the New Jersey Autism Center of Excellence Coordinating Center, as designated by the New Jersey Department of Health. The original award increased to over $3 million as more research sites were funded. In this capacity, the Center currently supports 25 clinical research projects and five autism medical homes.
Meeting the Needs of Infants, Children and Families
The CAECMH has raised more than $7 million to support its mission of offering professional development, education, clinical services and research opportunities in the areas of autism, infant and childhood development, and early childhood mental health.
Designed to meet the needs of New Jersey infants, children and their families, its numerous multi-disciplinary programs and services include a clinic for families from pregnancy to age 12; a Center-created infant mental health curriculum; and a school-based, early childhood mental health promotion program.
Academic programs are another key Center focus. It has developed two graduate certificate programs in infant/child mental health and developmental approaches to autism and offers students valuable hands-on clinical experiences.
Meeting the Needs of New Jersey
The Center recently hosted the 2017 "Meeting of the Minds and Honoring Diversity in Research," the second Statewide Autism Summit, which presented some of the exciting research being conducted with the support of the Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism.
Costa eagerly anticipates the Center’s next five years. "I hope the future will see an expansion of professional development services for those who serve older children, teenagers and adults with autism, that will help us support people with autism in the community," he says. "By continuing to live by our credo--being a place where all belong, are welcomed and where individual differences matter and are celebrated--we will continue to grow."