PA Healthy Transitions Partnership
One in four persons is affected by mental illness. In 2011, more than 1,700 individuals in Pennsylvania lost their lives due to suicide, the 10th leading cause of death nationally. A needs assessment has displayed a distinguished gap present between child-serving systems and adult serving systems, discounting transition age youth. On top of that, for youth and young adults with mental health concerns who are transitioning in their lives, it is especially difficult to reach recovery and wellness. Community engagement increases the likelihood that community members will support efforts and provide resources. Community engagement is challenging, but an effective tool in reaching the desired behavioral outcomes. Research has shown that identification and intervention early in the onset of mental health illness can inhibit cognitive decline. Additionally, this quick identification and intervention can support a much richer quality of life for the individual in need. Knowing this, it is vital that individuals get the help that they need during the prodromal stages of psychosis.
Having recognized the unique needs of youth and young adults transitioning into adulthood, and observing the gap that exists in serving those individuals, the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) applied for a federal grant that would support planning and implementation of services and resource development to address the gap in serving these young adults. In October of 2014, Pennsylvania was awarded the Pennsylvania Healthy Transitions Partnership. The purpose of the Pennsylvania Healthy Transitions Partnership is to develop a coordinated and comprehensive approach to the provision of services and supports to address serious mental health conditions, co-occurring disorders, and risks for developing serious mental health conditions among youth 16 – 25 years old. The communities will focus on three distinct populations.
- 16-25-year-olds at risk of developing a serious mental health condition
- 16-25-year-olds who have already been identified as experiencing a serious mental health condition
- The community at large (general public)
Over the 5 years of the grant, over 660 individuals with mental health conditions will be served. The target population will be a diverse group including youth with multisystem involvement and those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. Targeted outreach will focus on underserved populations and those who are below the poverty level. Clinically, these individuals may have characteristics of depression, major mood disorders, attention deficit disorder and oppositional defiant disorder.
The Healthy Transition Partnership will address the concerns that youth and young adults with, or at risk of, serious mental illness are:
- Not being identified
- Not being engaged
- Not given a voice in what they need/want
- Not supported to navigate adult systems
- Not taught how to create and/or access the necessary supports and series so that they can manage their mental health challenges and live full lives
The Healthy Transitions Partnership offers an exciting opportunity for groundbreaking innovation in screening, assessment and early intervention. Berks, Bucks and Washington counties will be Partners in the Healthy Transition Grant and will serve as models for other counties in the Commonwealth. These counties will be focusing on the following goals:
- Increase awareness about early indications of signs and symptoms for serious mental health concerns
- Identify action strategies to use when a serious mental health concern is detected
- Enhance peer and family supports for transition age youth
- Link existing and develop effective services and interventions for youth, young adults and their families
- Develop coordinated care models that will address key life domains such as behavioral health services and supports, housing, employment, vocational training and higher education
- Develop models of service delivery that can be replicated across the Commonwealth
Work has already begun on the grant goals. A statewide community engagement and outreach mental health anti-stigma campaign is currently being developed and will be ready for dissemination, replication, and adaptation at the local level. This structured framework for community outreach will include a social marketing plan, suicide prevention interventions, implementing Youth Mental Health First Aid practices and holding public awareness events such as Mental Health Awareness activities. The partnering counties have proposed multiple solutions for enhancing peer and family support for transition age youth. Counties plan to develop drop-in centers, train and employ certified peer specialists for transition age youth, expand upon and mobilize already existing peer-to-peer and mentor roles in communities and increase awareness of support groups and planning processes for mental health providers and advocates. Ultimately, these efforts will create opportunities for youth and young adults to practice self-advocacy and leadership, thus, providing support and mentorship for other youth in their communities.
The Healthy Transitions Partnership serves as an opportunity to bridge the existing gap in transition age youth services by improving life trajectories and overall wellness for youth and young adults with (or at risk for) serious mental health conditions. The staff engaged in carrying out the goals of the Healthy Transitions Partnership are intensively dedicated and grounded by the idea that “when ‘I’ becomes ‘we’ even ‘illness’ becomes ‘wellness.’”
For more information contact: Alexis Gingell, Youth Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org