May is Mental Health Month. While there are still a few days left in the month, I want to share with you some new developments at Hillsides that directly affect our outreach to the community for those coping with mental health issues.
This year’s Mental Health Month theme is Life with a Mental Illness. And while for some of us, these words may not resonate, for many more than we probably would ever suspect, they do. Recent research shows that roughly one in five adults, or 43 million Americans, have a diagnosable mental disorder and that the same amount of children ages 13 – 18 live with a mental health condition, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Childhood and young adulthood is an especially vulnerable time: Fifty percent of all lifetime cases of mental disorder begin at age 14 and 75 percent by age 24.
Yet, according to NAMI, the average delay between the onset of symptoms and intervention for is 8-10 years. Other research shows that of youth with depression, 64 percent do not receive intervention.
In the face of such overwhelming statistics, how can Hillsides help? One major step we have taken is to streamline our client intake procedure for our community-based mental health outpatient services as part of our new Behavioral Health Division.
Hillsides provides outpatient mental health services for children 5 – 25 at our three Family Resource Center sites in Echo Park, Baldwin Park, and South Pasadena. In addition we have contracts with several schools in these areas.
As a result of our new intake procedure, we are routinely able to get new clients seen within a few days. Eliminating a waiting list is crucial, points out our intake coordinator Joseph Tesoro. He notes that when people call Hillsides for mental health services, they are “in the right frame of mind to dive in and get as much benefit as they can from what we have to offer.” However, when potential clients are told they have to wait weeks or longer to see a therapist, they may lose interest and incentive, and give up trying to seek help.
With our new system, we are also able to serve more clients. Our Family Resource Centers are currently averaging 40 new clients a month, a substantial increase from previous numbers.
Besides treating the child, we often find ourselves treating the family because mental health issues can affect the entire family system. We recently received a referral for a high school girl with a substance use problem. At the same time, her sister was hospitalized for the intent to harm herself. Our intake staff was able to get both girls seen quickly by staff. The first sister now receives on-going therapy and participates in a substance use group. The second sister is in therapy one – two times a week and receives case management for extra support. Both are stabilizing while in addition, the parents are receiving parent education and family therapy.
At Hillsides we recognize that this year’s mental health month theme, Life with a Mental Illness, is a reality for many. We will continue to fine-tune and grow our intake process so we can serve even more outpatient clients. We look forward to continuing to do our part to turn around the overwhelming statistics and provide more children, youth, and families the hope, coping tools, and resources they need for maximum mental well-being.