Arizona legislative workgroup recommends the creation of youth mental health coalition to improve access to care

At last week’s meeting of the Arizona House’s Ad Hoc Committee on Teen Mental Health, the Access to Care, Depression and Mental Illness workgroup presented recommendations to the committee to improve access to care for Arizonans with depression and other mental illnesses. 

 

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The first recommendation is to develop a mental health coalition specific to youth mental health to help bridge the gap between prevention, intervention, and services for teen mental health, as well as eliminate any barriers to care. 

According to the spokesperson of the workgroup, the mission of this Youth Mental Health Coalition would be to help “… connect school districts and local communities to work together to no longer be silent when it comes to mental health and ensure youth have access to appropriate services.”

The workgroup spokesperson said the coalition should achieve this by bringing community resources together, including schools, health plans, and community organizations, as well as by training parents and youth to understand immediate intervention and direct them to formal interventions.

“We really believe [in] … a mental health coalition that can support the communities across our state and have that financial support,” the spokesperson said. “But also, it allows the communities to be able to address [their unique needs]. We can’t just [say] that every community in the state of Arizona is gonna look [the same]. All of us in our communities have different challenges that we face, and we feel like [a youth mental health coalition] could be a way to support that.”

The second recommendation is to provide additional funding for Centers of Excellence to increase the number of children’s mental health providers that specialize in certain areas. According to the workgroup, this would address the lack of providers in the community who specialize in children’s mental health care.

The workgroup spokesperson said the state should increase the number of mobile crisis response teams who specialize in children’s mental health, increase the number of teen respite facilities to provide a space where teens can “cool off” and get connected to resources to limit disruptions to current placement, and change the age of consent for mental health stabilization services to age 12. 

The third recommendation is to increase incentives for mental health professionals to practice in schools and communities in underserved areas of the state through student loan assistance or Years of Service awards at the new graduate and associated license levels. 

According to the workgroup, this would address the shortage of mental health professionals in underserved communities in the state. The spokesperson explained that there has been a decrease in community behavioral health providers due to recent legislative action permitting behavioral health professionals to develop their licenses in private practice. 

The spokesperson added that the state should increase the affordability of Master’s programs in the mental health field.