In 2004, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Board of Directors appointed the Task Force on Mental Health, charging it to assist pediatricians and other primary care clinicians* in enhancing the mental health care that they provide to children and adolescents.

The board's directive stemmed from its recognition that (1) pediatric primary care clinicians will play an increasingly important role in promoting the social-emotional health of children and providing treatment—or serving as an entry point to specialty treatment—for children and adolescents who have mental health and substance abuse problems and (2) the growth in this role will involve transformational changes in pediatric primary care practice, requiring new knowledge and skills, payment structures, collaborative relationships, office systems, and resources.

A compelling body of evidence demonstrates the enduring effects of early social and emotional experiences on the brain architecture and development of infants and young children. The evidence demonstrates the...

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