Arizona Teen Mental Health Ad Hoc Committee adopts recommendations for next steps

During their final meeting of the year last week, the Arizona House Mental Health Ad Hoc Committee adopted recommendations to put the committee’s work into action. The committee was established earlier this year to research and review information on how substance abuse, bullying, and social media affect the mental health of Arizona’s youth, including teenage suicide. 

Over a series of meetings and hearings from state agencies, law enforcement, nonprofit organizations, and students, among others such as committee experts, stakeholders discussed what is currently being done and what should be done to address these issues.

 

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“Today’s meeting was the culmination of months of focus and effort by our members and subcommittees to develop recommendations to address gaps in access to care, raise awareness about bullying and the dangers of social media, and to support those with substance use disorders, as well as their family members who are forced to watch their loved ones suffer,” said committee Chair and Rep. Joanne Osborne.

The committee was established to make recommendations about bullying and social media, family support and substance use, access to care, and depression and mental illness. In Arizona, youth suicide is the leading cause of death for those ages 10-14 and 15-25. 

Adopted recommendations include the establishment of a Teen Mental Health Grant program to provide funding to schools and nonprofit organizations for mental health and substance use resources, including training, educational materials, prevention specialists, and marketing campaigns. Additional resources would include mental health first aid training, youth resiliency training, and peer to peer education to youth, staff, and parents.

The grant would also support school districts in the development of an app for students to report safety issues and to have access to clinical support. Funding from the grant would also go towards children mental health service providers. 

The committee thinks the legislature should consider several resources to fund the grant program, such as legislative appropriations, including the Consumer Remediation Subaccount, Substance Use Disorder Fund, marijuana revenues, tobacco settlement funds, tobacco tax revenues, American Rescue Plan Act, or money from the General Fund. Additional funding source recommendations include private donations, grants, and federal funds.

Another adopted recommendation is the establishment of a Community Hub, which would be a single source of information and resources focused on access to care, prevention, education, and resources about bullying and cyberbullying. The hub would focus on several types of bullying and the impact of social media, bullying behaviors for parents and children to be aware of, and strategies for students to mitigate incidents and report to school officials in a timely manner. 

Another adopted recommendation is having the state look into recruitment and retention efforts for mental health professionals in schools and communities, with the goal of incentivizing a greater number of providers to enter and stay in the field.

“These recommendations are a Call to Action to our state, our communities, our schools, and our families, and they must be prioritized and implemented to address teen mental health issues before they lead to a devastating and permanent results such as suicide,” Osborne said. “There is much work to be done, but the work of this committee is an important first big step in the right direction to get our youth the support they need.”