In recent years there has been growing attention concerning youth and young adults with mental health challenges. For example, a recent issue of the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal (Winter 2012, Vol. 35, Issue 3) was entirely devoted to research on this population. Further, there has been a significant amount of information developed on best practices in working with this group.
Young people with mental health challenges, defined here as individuals between the ages of 14 to 25, have unique needs and strengths that often transcend services provided in traditional youth and adult service systems. Service approaches that are proving to be effective offer an array of services and supports in addition to behavioral health services. Leadership provided by young people is also having an impact on program and policy development. Youth-run organizations are an example of this growing movement among young people with lived experience in human service systems. Service models such as the evidence-informed Transition to Independence Process (TIP) are examples of youth-centered approaches that focus on the various life domains of young people. Family connections and other types of lasting relationships are also being viewed as necessary transition supports.
Many Colorado communities have undertaken creative efforts to serve this population. These efforts are supported by diverse systems such as behavioral health prevention and treatment, child welfare, juvenile justice, education, vocational rehabilitation, employment, and community-based organizations.
The resources provided here offer some insight into both the needs that exist and the resources being employed across the nation to work with young people with behavioral health challenges. It is hoped this information will offer new insights and direction in improving outcomes for this important group in Colorado.