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Mental health summit brings early childhood professionals together

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Albany/HV: Mental health summit brings early childhood professionals together
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Early childhood professionals gathered in Albany for an infant mental health summit. As our Erin Connolly explains, in the wake of the Newtown shooting massacre, there has been much more awareness about mental illness and ways to treat it at an early age.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The December 14th shooting massacre in Newtown, Connecticut is a tragedy we won't soon forget. 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six educators, before turning the gun on himself.

Dr. Gilbert Foley, a psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University said, "Certainly I was devastated. It was a true catastrophe for everyone.''

In the aftermath of the shooting, there was speculation about Lanza's mental health and whether any treatment could have prevented his violent outburst. Some questioned whether Lanza was failed by the mental health system or whether the system itself is sufficient.

Dr. Jeff Daly of Four Winds Hospital said, "We live in a country where it's easier to get an automatic weapon than to get a child adolescent psychologist to see a kid and we have to look at that. Access to services are limited for kids who really need it.''

And Wednesday, early childhood professionals gathered in Albany to examine the needs of children. The goal of the mental health summit was to develop a strong network between local agencies and providers. But participants say parents also need to be at the forefront of this effort.

Mary McHugh of the New York State Office of Mental Health said, "We need to do a public health approach to mental health. Promotion, prevention, and intervention.''

The summit also identified the importance of early identification and early treatment of social and emotional difficulties.

Dr. Foley said, ''Developmental work is far more effective and easier accomplished than reconstructive work. In other words, if it's gone wrong, it takes a whole lot more to get it right than if we keep it on track right from the beginning.''

And advocates hope the greater awareness surrounding mental health can prevent future incidents like the shootings in Newtown.

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