How Talking Openly Against Stigma Helped A Mother And Son Cope With Bipolar Disorder

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It was December 2012 when the country learned about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, that left 20 children dead at the hands of 20-year-old shooter Adam Lanza.

After the shock and the initial grief came questions about how it could have happened and why. Reports that Adam Lanza may have had some form of undiagnosed mental illness surfaced.

The tragedy drove Liza Long to write a blog post on that same day, titled "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother." She wasn't Lanza's mom, but she was raising a child with a mental disorder.

Her 13-year-old son had violent rages on a regular basis. He was in and out of juvenile detention. He had threatened to kill her. She detailed all this in her essay that took off online.

Now, four years later, her son is speaking out too.

Performance Partnership Pilots: An Opportunity to Improve Outcomes for Disconnected Youth

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Federal agencies have released a second call for bold proposals to improve education, employment, and other key outcomes for disconnected youth.

Over five million 14-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. are out of school and not working. In many cases, they face the additional challenges including being low-income, homeless, in foster care, or involved in the justice system. In response, seven federal agencies are jointly inviting state, local, and tribal communities to apply to become a Performance Partnership Pilot (P3)  to test innovative, outcome-focused strategies to achieving better outcomes for these youth, as well as youth at risk of becoming disconnected from critical social institutions and supports.

The P3 initiative allows pilots to receive customized flexibility from the participating agencies—including the Departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, Justice, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and now also the Department of Housing and Urban Development—to overcome barriers and align program and reporting requirements across programs.  This flexibility enables communities to pursue the most innovative and effective ways to use their existing funds to improve outcomes for the neediest youth.

In October 2015, the Department of Education announced the first round of nine pilots on behalf of all the participating agencies.  From supporting youth moms and their young children with a two-generation approach to helping foster care youth transition successfully from high school to college and career, these pilots will serve a total of roughly 10,000 disconnected youth.  This second round of pilots offers up to 10 communities the opportunity to propose bold new ideas for how they would use P3 flexibility to transform the way they deliver services and improve outcomes for their disconnected youth.

Stakeholders on the front lines of service delivery have let us know that flexibility, such as better aligning the multiple systems that serve youth, is sometimes needed to achieve powerful outcomes. P3 responds directly to these challenges by offering broad new flexibility in exchange for better outcomes.

This round of P3 includes several priorities to test this authority in diverse environments across America and support broader learning in the field.  For example, acknowledging the diverse needs of communities, the competition allows separate categories of consideration for applicants that propose to serve disconnected youth in rural communities, in tribal communities, or in communities that recently have experienced civil unrest.  In addition, applicants can earn bonus points in the selection process by proposing to rigorously evaluate at least one component of their pilot, proposing to implement work-based learning opportunities, or proposing projects that would specifically serve youth who are neither employed nor in school.

A competition for a third round of up to 10 pilots is expected to be released in the summer of 2016.  This will provide another opportunity for communities that need more time to collaborate and prepare their best proposals.  Additionally, this third competition round will permit communities to use their Continuum of Care and Emergency Solutions Grants Program funds, funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in the pilots.

To hear representatives from Federal agencies present the details of the recently released Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) on P3, including application requirements and selection criteria, please register and join us for the P3 National Webinar on May 9th at 1PM ET. Registration information is available at 

Meet PRIME, the New App That Wants to Help End Schizophrenia

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It was in 2011, after Camilo Pineda Obando moved to Pacifica, California, a small city just south of San Francisco, when his perception of reality took a sudden, dark shift. It wasn’t the first time the 21-year-old aspiring music producer had experienced episodes of anxiety and paranoia, but this was different. Walking down the street, he felt like the protagonist in a nightmarish video game populated with mysterious characters, some good, others evil. An agonizing sense of responsibility to identify the bad guys and alert everyone else overwhelmed him.

“The most minute thing would determine it,” he says. “The sunglasses you wore, the car you drove, the way you walked.”

Over the course of three days, Pineda’s delusions and paranoia intensified. He accosted a neighbor he believed to be “bad,” yelling at her and pulling her hair. He was arrested, and spent the next three weeks detained in the psychiatric unit at Santa Clara County Jail. His mind was in chaos, his life derailed.

A terrifying diagnosis followed: paranoid schizophrenia. But despite the stigma and fear associated with the illness, Pineda felt some relief. His life had begun unraveling years before, he says, so the diagnosis helped explain his prior troubles, and it offered a path forward.

In the months that followed, medication brought his delusions and paranoia under control, and therapy helped him begin to piece his life back together. “I wasn’t going to sit around and whine and moan because I have this,” he says. “I had my whole life ahead of me.”

Then, in 2013, an opportunity came along. The University of California-San Francisco was looking to enlist young people with schizophrenia to help design an experimental new treatment device: a smartphone application that would provide patients with on-demand counseling, tools to meet treatment goals, and a social network of young people with the disease. Pineda signed on without hesitation.

Health Care’s Hard Realities On The Reservation: A Photo Essay

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Cody Pedersen and his wife, Inyan, know that in an emergency they will have to wait for help to arrive.

When Inyan, 34, was preparing to give birth to her two youngest children, doctors scheduled her to have C-sections in a hospital rather than having her come in to give birth after she went into labor. In January, Cody was stabbed in the neck. It took an ambulance two hours to arrive.

Though he survived, Cody knows that unless he and his family go themselves to seek care, which is often hours away by car, they’re unlikely to receive it.

Cody, 29, and his family live in Cherry Creek, a Native American settlement within Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in north central South Dakota. The reservation is bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined, but in Cherry Creek there is no general store, no gas station and few job opportunities. A 17-mile gravel road in Cherry Creek connects to a better road which eventually leads to Eagle Butte, the largest town on the reservation, and home to just over 1,300 people. That’s where the closest doctors are.

When Cody runs out of gas money, he has to pay $40 to a neighbor to take him to the health center in Eagle Butte. But he can’t even do that before lucking out and securing an appointment, calling at 7 a.m. on the same day he wants to see a doctor. Clinics like the one Cody goes to do not allow patients to schedule appointments in advance. And it affects their everyday lives: Their 11-year-old daughter Makrista missed school for two weeks because they can’t get a doctor’s note to vouch that her head lice has gone away. And, the family said they can’t get the note because the clinic in Cherry Creek has been closed for weeks.”

High-Fidelity Wraparound Pilot Paves the Way for Possible Medicaid Funding in North Carolina

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Two North Carolina counties (Buncombe and Henderson) have been selected as pilot sites for a state initiative to use enhanced behavioral health treatment services to reduce the number of children placed in foster care or residential facilities.

The High-Fidelity Wraparound Pilot will be funded by the N.C. Department of Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Developmental Disabilities for a four-year trial period. Smoky Mountain MCO, which manages public behavioral health services in western North Carolina, will work with the Department of Social Services (DSS) in Buncombe and Henderson counties, as well as the behavioral healthcare provider Youth Villages and comprehensive care providers, to implement the initiative locally.

The System of Care pilot will target children and youths who receive Medicaid, are in therapeutic foster care and need treatment for mental health, drug or alcohol issues. A team of behavioral health professionals will work with the child and family for up to 18 months to help them get the treatment they need, overcome obstacles and develop healthy behaviors and relationships.

"Many of these families are under a great deal of stress, including possible financial or legal troubles, and often have complex treatment needs," said Rhonda Cox, Smoky's senior director of care coordination. "The High-Fidelity pilot allows us to give children and families extra attention and support from professionals with expertise in these types of issues and also in the social services system."

Six families in Buncombe County and four in Henderson County will participate in the first year of the pilot. In each of the remaining three years, 25 families from the two counties will participate. Smoky will manage the program with support from DSS staff, and Youth Villages will provide the family treatment teams. Local comprehensive providers will participate by offering appropriate treatment services, such as outpatient therapy or intensive in-home services.

"This pilot project brings all partners to the same table," said Tamela Shook, Social Work Division director for Buncombe County Health and Human Services. "It provides consistency for families involved with DSS and lets them know we are committed to helping them succeed."

"We're hoping this pilot results in fewer children being placed outside the home, or shorter lengths of stay outside the home," said Lori Horne, social work program manager with Henderson County DSS. "The ultimate goal is successful family reunifications."

The High-Fidelity pilot is one of two initiatives aimed at building a specialized, reliable continuum of care for children involved with DSS. Smoky is currently working to expand its Intercept program, which provides up to six months of high-intensity family intervention and treatment for children involved with DSS who have more acute behavioral health needs. Intercept was first implemented in several counties in the far western part of the state and will soon be offered in additional counties. Both programs have a goal of stabilizing families, preventing problems from getting worse and reducing the number of children placed outside the home.

If the High-Fidelity pilot produces positive results, state health officials will consider adding it to the list of services covered by Medicaid.

About Smoky Mountain LME/MCO
Smoky Mountain LME/MCO manages public funds for mental health, substance use disorder and intellectual/developmental disability services in Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey counties in North Carolina. Access to services is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 1-800-849-6127. Visit Smoky online at

Media Contact:
    Rachel E. Leonard-Spencer
    Media and Communications Coordinator
    828-225-2785, ext. 5197

OJJDP FY 2016 Defending Childhood State Policy Initiative

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The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP), Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is seeking applications for the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Defending Childhood State Policy Initiative. This program furthers the Department’s mission by providing technical assistance that helps selected states develop or modify and implement policy and practice designed to help children and youth exposed to violence and their families, consistent with recommendations from the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence. 

Rising to the Challenge of Policing Today’s Youth

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The Police Foundation, a Washington, DC-based non-profit organization, released the first of a series of youth-focused policy briefs online today. The briefs were first presented at the Annual Training Symposium of the California Police Chiefs Association in Ontario, California.

In the past two years, there has been an intense national conversation about police focused on trust and legitimacy. This dialogue has included scrutiny of how police interact with young people. Line level personnel from both police and sheriff’s agencies more often than not, respond to sensitive situations, such as domestic family disputes, and in some jurisdictions are called on by the school to respond to incidents on campus. It is important to provide the law enforcement community with resources that can help to improve public safety and steer young people toward the appropriate support services they might need. The four policy brief series is designed for California law enforcement executives but is applicable on a national scale.

“We need to provide strategies to deter youth from entering the juvenile and criminal justice systems and to enhance trust and cooperation between police, youth, and their families,” said Jim Bueermann. “The goal of the policy briefs is to increase law enforcement knowledge and understanding of youth development without sacrificing public safety.”

The first brief is an introduction that challenges law enforcement executives to develop a vision for positive police-youth interactions, develop policies that recognize the developmental stages of youth, provide youth-specific training for police officers, develop or sustain community partnerships, and identify means to eliminate racial bias in policing youth. Topics of the remaining policy briefs include:

  •     Teen Brain: Preparing Your Officers to Engage with Youth
  •     Defining the Role of School-Based Police Officers
  •     The Career Pipeline Concept

The Police Foundation produced the policy briefs in collaboration with the California Police Chiefs Association and the California State Sheriffs’ Association and with funding from the California Endowment.

The Police Foundation is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that for nearly 45 years has been at the cutting-edge of research into the most effective and efficient policing practices, as well as providing the understanding of that research to departments and agencies across the nation.

  • Download the first brief here.

Interested in Talking About Mental Health?

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Join Community Solutions during the following Nationwide Text, Talk, Act dates:

*Text, Talk, Act during these nationwide dates. Please note that the Text, Talk, Act contest is only available on April 19th and May 5th.

Join us in talking about mental health and well-being with your family and friends. Share your stories with each other and follow us on Twitter with hashtag #TextTalkAct! Contact Raquel Goodrich at or visit the website at to become a promotional partner, host a Text, Talk, Act event in your area, and to learn more!

For LGBTQ youth who trade sex to survive, turning 22 can be an unwanted milestone

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In New York City, and in many other cities across the country, funding for runaway and homeless youth is often limited to those ages 16 to 21. This frequently leaves 22- to 24-year-olds without shelter beds, access to group sessions, job training, and medical care, even though they are still technically eligible for services through youth programs, which typically go up to age 24.

For young people in this group who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ), this means they lose access to a crucial source of safety and stability in difficult times. This echoes larger trends of LGBTQ youth having less access to appropriate social services than non-LGBTQ youth.

And while all youth face emotional, psychological, and social challenges during adolescence, LGBTQ youth face a disproportionate amount of additional stressors related to their sexual orientation and gender identity, including discrimination and increased victimization. LGBTQ youth need the very social services that they're not accessing.

Resiliency in Communities After Stress and Trauma

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The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services is accepting applications for fiscal year (FY) 2016 Resiliency in Communities After Stress and Trauma (Short Title:  ReCAST Program) grants.  The purpose of this program is to assist high-risk youth and families and promote resilience and equity in communities that have recently faced civil unrest through implementation of evidence-based, violence prevention, and community youth engagement programs, as well as linkages to trauma-informed behavioral health services.  The goal of the ReCAST program is for local community entities to work together in ways that lead to improved behavioral health, empowered community residents, and reductions in trauma and sustained community change.



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