Colorado Communities Advancing Children's Social-Emotional Health

Healthy social-emotional development in the early years lay a foundation for overall health, well-being, and success in school and life.

LAUNCH Together is an initiative designed to improve social, emotional, behavioral, physical and cognitive outcomes for young children (prenatal through age eight) and their families in Colorado. Created through a unique collaboration of eight Colorado-based foundations, communities across the state are supported in enhancing existing prevention and health promotion practices and building coordinated community systems. LAUNCH Together is inspired by the experiences and outcomes of Project LAUNCH, a national effort funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


26.5% of Colorado’s parents have concerns about their children’s emotion or behavior.

Many of these parents describe their concerns as moderate or severe, yet only a fraction accessed mental health care of any kind.

Source: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 2011 Colorado Child Health Survey

The number of children in Colorado grew by 12%.

Between 2000 and 2014, Colorado had the 8th fastest growing child population in the country.

Source: Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, 2014

of the social-emotional, developmental or mental health problems are detected before children enter school.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015 Developmental Screening Fact Sheet.

Chaffee & Fremont

These two rural counties combined are the size of the state of Delaware. The result: families must often drive hours to major population centers to access promotion, prevention, and early identification services. Partners are working together to address regional equity challenges by creating a unique and innovative rural model for service delivery of these critical social-emotional supports.

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The "Gateway to the Rockies" has a strong history of collaborating to address the challenges of its most vulnerable populations. But access to mental health services is becoming increasingly difficult due to gentrification and transportation issues. Partners across Lakewood, Wheat Ridge, and Edgewater are building a coordinated system of community-based mental health services focused on children birth to age three.

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Pueblo's deep-rooted stigma about mental health coupled with intergenerational poverty makes changing patterns and attitudes towards children’s social-emotional development especially challenging. A diverse collaboration of child-focused leaders is committed to changing this culture by building a common understanding of the importance of children’s social-emotional development and creating a seamless approach for families to access critical services.

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Southwest Denver

An estimated 12,500 children ages birth to eight live in a roughly nine neighborhood area in Southwest Denver alone. Faced with risk factors such as high poverty rates and domestic violence and low preschool enrollment, Denver is leveraging its community assets and collective impact expertise to create a trauma-informed system that supports social-emotional development.

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Serve & Return Newsletter

The Serve & Return newsletter has been discontinued. If you would like to receive future publications from Early Milestones Colorado, you can subscribe here.

Past issues of Serve & Return can found in the Resources section below.

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LAUNCH Together has many resources to help communities in creating their vision for advancing the social and emotional health of young children and their families. Click on the link to view and download these valuable materials. For additional resources on supporting social and emotional health, visit



  • + What is LAUNCH Together?

    LAUNCH Together is a first in the nation initiative designed to improve social, emotional, behavioral, physical and cognitive outcomes for young children (prenatal through age eight) and their families in Colorado. Created through a unique collaboration of eight Colorado-based foundations, LAUNCH Together supports communities across the state in enhancing existing evidence-based prevention and health promotion practices and building more coordinated community systems. Partnerships are the cornerstone of the LAUNCH Together initiative. Local leaders across health and mental health, early childhood and family support are empowered to partner to create better infrastructure, streamline services and supports and infuse early childhood mental health knowledge to better serve families across settings. Five key strategies guide communities in creating a vision for early childhood social-emotional health with a focus on reducing physical and mental health disparities, especially among vulnerable populations: 1) Enhanced home visiting through a focus on social and emotional well-being, 2) Screening and assessment in a range of child-serving settings, 3) Integration of behavioral health into primary care, 4) Mental health consultation in early care and education settings, and 5) Family strengthening and parent skills training.

    LAUNCH Together is inspired by the experiences and outcomes of Project LAUNCH partners, a national project funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Best practices resulting from the collaboration between local, state and national partners will inform broader state policy opportunities to sustain these effective two-generation family-centered strategies across Colorado.

    *The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

  • + Why is childhood mental health and social-emotional development important?

    Sound mental health provides an essential foundation of stability that supports all other aspects of human development—from the formation of friendships and the ability to cope with adversity to the achievement of success in school, work and community life.* Like the way a wobbly table may not function well if the floor is uneven or the legs are not aligned, the destabilizing consequences of problems in mental health can be caused by many interdependent factors. Just as small “wobbles” in a table can become bigger and more difficult to fix over time, the effective management of mental health concerns in young children requires promotion, prevention and early identification of the causes and appropriate attention to their source, whether they reside in the environment, the child or (most frequently) in both.*

    Understanding how emotional well-being can be strengthened or disrupted in early childhood can help decision-makers promote the kinds of environments and experiences that prevent problems and remediate early difficulties. For society, many costly problems, ranging from the failure to complete high school to incarceration to homelessness, could be dramatically reduced if attention were paid to improving children’s environments of relationships and experiences early in life.

    *Center on the Developing Child (2013). Early Childhood Mental Health (InBrief). Retrieved from

  • + Are there certain populations experiencing higher rates of mental illness?

    Yes. According to a 2001 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “minority communities have a higher proportion of individuals with unmet mental health needs.” They are also over-represented among vulnerable populations that experience higher rates of mental illness. “Studies have consistently shown that people in the lowest strata of income, education and occupation are about two to three times more likely than those in the highest strata to have a mental disorder…. They also are more likely to have higher levels of psychological distress…” Our growing and changing child population requires us to consider new strategies that take into account economic and cultural factors that influence if, how, where and when families access and use mental health services.

  • + What is the role of adults in supporting children's mental health?

    Children function within the context of their caregiving environments, including their homes, child care settings, schools and communities. Children, particularly young children, are deeply impacted by their relationships with primary caregivers and these relationships are believed to be the most important buffer for children facing early adversity. If primary caregivers, including child care providers and teachers, are not healthy themselves, it is unlikely the child and caregiver together will establish and maintain a sturdy enough relationship for the child to feel safe, secure and stable. Moreover, when expectant mothers struggle with mental health issues such as mood disorders, depression, anxiety or are exposed to adverse experiences or environments during pregnancy, the resulting stress can negatively affect fetal development. Effective strategies must recognize and meet the needs of the whole family, including prenatal mental health care services for expectant mothers and accessible substance use disorder treatment.

  • + What's the difference between Project LAUNCH, Colorado Project LAUNCH, and LAUNCH Together?

    Several efforts are currently underway to address gaps in supporting the mental health of young children and families. Here is a quick overview of the complementary public and private efforts in motion to help achieve shared goals.

    Project LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health) is a national initiative administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that began in 2008 and has funded more than 70 sites, including states, tribes, territories and communities. Two communities in Colorado have received Project LAUNCH funding. In 2010, the Weld Systems Navigation Project in Weld County was the first grantee in Colorado to receive a federally funded Project LAUNCH grant award. In 2014, a second federally funded Project LAUNCH grant was awarded to the state of Colorado in partnership with Adams County Early Childhood Partnership. To learn more about Project LAUNCH, visit:

    Colorado Project LAUNCH, or COPL, is supported by federal Project LAUNCH funding and describes the Colorado-specific partnership between the Colorado Department of Human Services, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, JFK Partners at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and the Early Childhood Partnership of Adams County (ECPAC). This five-year grant award supports work at the state-level in addition to Adams County, with an increased emphasis on children and families with less-equitable health outcomes.

    LAUNCH Together is a privately-funded initiative designed to replicate and expand the system and program successes of prior federally-funded efforts. Colorado is the only state to mobilize private partners and resources in a unique collaboration for early childhood social-emotional development.

    To briefly summarize the three distinct, but collaborative efforts Project LAUNCH is a federally funded project governed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Colorado Project LAUNCH (COPL) is a grantee of Project LAUNCH. LAUNCH Together is a privately-funded initiative inspired by Project LAUNCH. Colorado has a tremendous opportunity to leverage these efforts to work towards bold policy, financing and systems change, streamlined data sharing and infrastructure, a stronger workforce across child-serving settings, and increased public awareness.

    To learn more about LAUNCH Together, visit: To learn more about Project LAUNCH, visit:

  • + Who oversees and funds LAUNCH Together?

    LAUNCH Together is possible through the unique collaboration of eight Colorado-based foundations: Buell Foundation, Caring for Colorado Foundation, Community First Foundation, the Colorado Health Foundation, Kaiser Permanente Colorado, The Piton Foundation at Gary Community Investments, Rose Community Foundation, and ZOMA Foundation. Representatives from each foundation serve as the LAUNCH Together Advisory Team and provide strategic guidance and oversight. Rose Community Foundation and Community First Foundation serve as fiscal sponsors for LAUNCH Together.

    Early Milestones Colorado (Milestones) was selected as the lead agency for the project through a competitive application process. Milestones is responsible for all program operations, including the facilitation of the LAUNCH Together Learning Community.

  • + What is the timeframe for LAUNCH Together?

    LAUNCH Together consists of two phases: 1) Phase I Planning: November 2015 – August 2016, and 2) Phase II Implementation: October 2016 – September 2020.

  • + How were the LAUNCH Together communities selected?

    The LAUNCH Together Advisory Team of funders selected community grantees to participate in the planning and implementation phases of LAUNCH Together.

    Phase I Planning: Seventeen competitive community applications representing 44 of Colorado’s 64 counties were submitted in response to the Phase I Planning RFP, demonstrating high need and interest in improving children’s social-emotional health. Of these, seven applicants were each awarded up to $55,000 for a seven-month LAUNCH Together planning grant to promote the social and emotional health and well-being of children and families. Local lead agencies worked in partnership with community stakeholders in a strategic planning process to expand evidence-based prevention and promotion practices and enhance coordinated community systems.

    Phase 2 Implementation: Of the seven planning communities, four were selected to receive four-year implementation grant awards up to $2,000,000 each. The LAUNCH Together Advisory Team of funders awarded grants based on community partnerships, need and readiness for a coordinated approach to integrating early childhood physical, social, emotional and cognitive development systems. The four implementation communities include: 1) Chaffee & Fremont, 2) Denver, 3) Jefferson, and 4) Pueblo.

  • + Are other communities eligible to apply for additional LAUNCH Together funding?

    No. However, any community interested in advancing children’s mental health through enhancing evidence-based practices and building more coordinated community systems is encouraged to use the LAUNCH Together planning tools and resources. Please contact Vani Tangella at if you would like to learn more.

  • + How is LAUNCH Together evaluated?

    The Butler Institute for Families at the University of Denver serves as the lead evaluation partner for LAUNCH Together working in collaboration with The Implementation Group. Please contact Meg Franko at if you would like to learn more about the LAUNCH Together evaluation approach.

  • + Who should I contact to learn more about LAUNCH Together?

    Vani Tangella
    Project Manager
    Early Milestones Colorado
    720-592-0001 (direct)