Partner spotlight: Advocacy funding supports early intervention through Project RISE

infant with a nasal gastric tube looks at camera

by  Samantha Smith, NCHT Sr Program Director and Alisha Rone, Executive Director of the Child Development Center

In the spring of 2023, the Natrona Collective Health Trust launched its advocacy grant program to support a better community through the advocacy of policies and systems change in the areas of strong families, social inclusion, and civic engagement.

One of the first recipients of this grant program was Child Development Services (CDS) of Wyoming, comprised of 12 of the 14 child development centers in Wyoming. CDS is partnering with the Child Development Center (CDC) of Natrona County and Carbon County Child Development Programs for Project ‘RISE’- Risk Intervention Support and Empowering Families.

Currently, the CDC provides free early intervention services to children ages birth to five who have a known diagnosis or show a developmental delay. However, the CDC hasn’t been able to serve some of the community’s most vulnerable or at-risk children due to limitations in Wyoming’s funding model for early intervention services.

Project RISE is a pilot project in both Natrona and Carbon counties to provide early intervention services to infants born under at-risk conditions. Conditions include those who:

  • are substance-exposed,
  • are premature,
  • have a low birth weight with failure to thrive or attachment concerns,
  • are involved with child welfare (an open case), and/or
  • have a primary caregiver with a known mental illness.

Since the program’s launch in March, the CDC of Natrona County has received 44 referrals for babies that meet the new at-risk qualifiers under Project RISE. Once a referral is received, the CDC provides family service coordination, occupational therapy, infant massage, and feeding support to these at-risk families. The overall goal of the pilot is to collect enough data over the next year to demonstrate positive outcomes and advocate for changing Wyoming state statutes to include the new at-risk verbiage for early intervention services.

Because 80 percent of the brain is developed by the age of 5, earlier intervention results in more positive long-term outcomes. Project RISE can positively impact many little lives for years to come.

“We are so grateful for the Collective Health Trust in seeing the need and vision to serve these at-risk children with early intervention services and in turn, partnering with us to make change across the state for all of Wyoming’s children,” said Alisha Rone, Executive Director of the CDC. “Project RISE and the partnership with the Collective Health Trust shows how philanthropy, government, and nonprofit organizations can work together to achieve a greater good.”