Resource Development Associates

Youth Provide Recommendations for Improving Mental Health Services in Marin County

By Kelechi Ubozoh

In July, a group of young adults presented their recommendations for improving access to mental health services in Marin County. The group discussed the mental health needs of transition-aged youth (TAY) and the barriers experienced by members of this population when accessing services and supports.

The presenters were members of the TAY Advisory Council formed as part of Growing Roots, a Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Innovation (INN) project led by Marin County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) with facilitation by Kawahara and Associates and research support from RDA. The purpose of the project is to increase access to culturally competent behavioral health services for TAY from underserved populations who are at risk of or experiencing a mental health issues by building on the strengths of the informal system of care. Specifically, the three established goals are to:

  • Increase understanding of the needs of TAY;
  • Increase access, quality, and cultural competency of services; and
  • Increase the number of TAY receiving services with positive outcomes.

The TAY Advisory Council’s presentation came after a youth-led needs assessment that was the result of over 20 focus groups, hundreds of survey responses, and analysis of both administrative and publicly available data. RDA worked with the TAY Advisory Council to create surveys, provide data analysis, and report the findings. The young adults, who range from 16 to 27, worked to develop presentations with recommendations that will have a lasting impact on the provision of mental health services for youth in the county. The TAY Advisory Council recommended that:

  • Marin youth need more mentors and supportive adults;
  • The county needs more supportive services for older youth; males; African American, Latino, and Native American youth; and youth who live outside of San Rafael, including Novato, Marin City, and West Marin;
  • Providers should consider expanding online outreach efforts;
  • Providers should consider the voices of youth in strengthening and improving existing services; and
  • The system should strengthen the workforce so that it reflects the youth in need of support (i.e. gender, race/ethnicity, lived experience, and language).

The presentations were well-received, with the Director of BHRS noting that the youth presenters were well-prepared and that the recommendations clearly represented the voice of TAY in the county. The Director also referenced the findings and recommendations in a regional meeting of the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) to help inform that organization’s next round of triage grants through SB 82.

The Growing Roots project represented a great example of the impact of Participatory Action Research (PAR), a method that meaningfully includes stakeholders in efforts to increase understanding of a system while simultaneously attempting to create social change. The TAY Advisory Council was empowered to voice their opinions and concerns and provided recommendations that should help dramatically improve the lives of youth with mental health problems in the county.

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