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To help address teens’ mental health needs, Colorado to launch Youth Mental Health Corps

File Photo . (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

DENVER | Colorado is one of four states set to launch a new public-private program this fall aimed at addressing both the growing mental health needs of teenagers and a lack of providers.

Called the Youth Mental Health Corps, the program will train young adults ages 18 to 24 to act “as navigators serving middle and high school students in schools and in community-based organizations,” according to a press release from Colorado Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera’s office. The Youth Mental Health Corps website says corps members will “connect youth to needed mental health supports and resources in close collaboration with practitioners and community partners.”

The federal AmeriCorps service program will work with the Colorado Behavioral Health Administration and the Colorado Community College System to recruit and deploy the navigators, who will get a stipend and be eligible for student loan forgiveness and other help paying for college, the press release says.

“By joining this national initiative, we are not only addressing the urgent need for mental health resources but also creating meaningful pathways for our young adults to pursue careers in this vital field,” Primavera said in a statement.

Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a pediatric mental health “state of emergency” in 2021, and both public agencies and private organizations in the state responded with programs to address the crisis. The programs include the pandemic-era state-funded I Matter, which provides six free telehealth or in-person counseling sessions to students in elementary through high school and which Colorado lawmakers recently made permanent.

The Schultz Family Foundation, founded by former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and his wife, Sheri, and the online platform Pinterest are backing the Youth Mental Health Corps program, according to a press release from AmeriCorps.

The press release mentions “broad concern about the impact of social media on the mental health of young people” and says the Youth Mental Health Corps will “help students navigate social challenges online such as harassment, bullying and bias.”

Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and Texas will launch Youth Mental Health Corps programs in September with “hundreds” of navigators across the four states, the press release says. Seven other states — California, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and Utah — are set to launch programs in the fall of 2025, it says.

Melanie Asmar is the bureau chief for Chalkbeat Colorado. Contact Melanie at Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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