Thursday, April 18, 2024
CO youth mental health crisis tackled by CHI.

CO youth mental health crisis tackled by CHI.

Colorado Health Institute (CHI) has presented a series of solutions aimed at strengthening the youth mental health ecosystem, marking the 24th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School. The report outlines a plan to advance the youth mental health workforce, community crisis response, and infrastructure by focusing on upstream, equitable, culturally competent, timely, sustainable, and evidence-informed measures. One of the identified solutions is the creation of culturally responsive safe spaces in schools and communities.

The report also includes solutions aimed at improving trauma-informed, family-centered programming, and youth-specific crisis response, highlighting the opportunities to equitably improve the ecosystem through philanthropic investment in and partnerships with community groups. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Coloradan youth and young adults. The state legislature is considering several measures that address mental health access.

Senate Bill 002 would authorize the state to seek federal approval for Medicaid reimbursement of community health workers. House Bill 1200 would create a behavioral health pilot program that offers vouchers to people who could not access a safety net provider during a behavioral health crisis to fund their treatment through a private provider. HB 1003 would allow school districts to opt-in to hosting mental health assessments for students in grades 6-12.

The CHI report recommends statewide universal school-based mental health screenings. CHI Director of Behavioral Health Policy Analysis Emily Johnson said that without solutions to address the ecosystem’s infrastructure and workforce limitations, the provision of care and services to support school assessments would be difficult. To improve youth mental health in Colorado, Partners for Children’s Mental Health (PCMH) has formed a Youth Committee for Mental Health (YCMH) where students guide peers and mental health professionals on the issues and perceptions around youth mental health.

The CHI report highlights the need for schools, communities, and philanthropic organizations to work together to create culturally affirming spaces for students that can offer services like peer support and mentorship, and allow youth to explore topics like leadership, identity, and belonging. “Seeing our families deal with this without getting mental health help makes youth think that they can get away with dealing with stuff without mental health help,” said an unidentified high schooler who took part in CHI’s research.

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