These are startling statistics about mental health in youth:
- More than 50 percent of lifetime mental health disorders begin before the age of 14.
- In a classroom of 30 students, three or more are likely to be struggling with a mental disorder, which impacts their ability to concentrate and learn.
- Children in elementary schools with mental health problems are more likely to do poorly at school, be absent, suspended or expelled.
- Minority children and youth are less likely to receive needed mental health services than their white counterparts (13 percent of children and youth from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds receive mental health services compared to 31 percent of white students).
And here’s a startling connection: for individuals with mental and behavioral health problems, childhood trauma is a near universal experience. This was one of the findings from the landmark Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente. The ACE study is one of the largest investigations ever to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being.
ACE researchers found that adults who had been exposed to four or more different kinds of childhood trauma, compared to those who had experienced none, were 4 to 12 times more likely to experience alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, and suicide attempts. The study also showed a graded relationship between the number of categories of adverse childhood exposures and the presence of adult diseases, including ischemic heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and more.
To help change these statistics for some of our community’s highest-priority youth, Cambia Health Foundation and Friends of the Children—Portland (Friends) have forged a strategic plan of attack. Cambia Health Foundation is investing $60,000 over one year to provide behavioral health counseling to Friends’ program youth and comprehensive trauma-informed training for staff.
Friends is piloting partnerships with local schools and Morrison Child and Family Services to increase trauma-informed counseling for youth dealing with crises. Leveraging its long-term consistent relationships with underserved families, Friends will remove the transportation and bureaucratic barriers that typically prevent their youth and their families from accessing counseling through Oregon Health Plan coverage. Friends will also increase the competency and capacity of their staff to provide trauma-informed care through trainings and support systems.
“Our mission is to guide, support and mentor children facing the hardest challenges—which more often than not involve some type of trauma,” said Megan Lewis Executive Director, Friends of the Children—Portland. “Providing a trauma-informed approach to our services has always been key to our efforts, and Cambia Health Foundation’s funding will allow us to deepen the existing trauma-informed competencies and culture of our organization.”
“We’re honored to invest in the work of Friends of the Children, which furthers our commitment to address the long-term health impacts of childhood trauma and toxic stress,” said Angela Hult, Cambia Health Foundation executive director. Hult noted that behavioral health services and prevention programs hold great promise for reducing the long-term health care costs of childhood trauma. Active behavioral health treatment has been found to reduce medical costs by 17 percent for those with diagnosed disorders, while control patients who did not receive treatment experienced a 23 percent increase in costs.
Friends of the Children's mission is to identify children facing the hardest challenges, and to relentlessly dedicate resources to them for their entire childhood to create generational change. They proactively select kindergarteners in their community living with the greatest confluences of ACEs and provide them with 1:1 support from full-time, highly trained, salaried mentors (called Friends) for the next 12 ½ years. Each Friend meets meet weekly with each child, communicates with caregivers regularly, and advocates for each child's unique needs within school and social service systems. Friends have strong backgrounds in fields of education, social services, cultural studies and child development.
About Friends of the Children—Portland
In 1993, Friends of the Children opened its doors with three friends serving 24 children. Today, Friends of the Children—Portland employs 50 Friends guiding, supporting and mentoring 450 children. Their mission is to identify children facing the hardest challenges, and to relentlessly dedicate resources to them for their entire childhood to create generational change. They partner with Title I schools and the Department of Human Services to proactively enroll the children who will benefit the most from a professional mentor (called a Friend). Youth stay in the program for 12 ½ years—from kindergarten to high school graduation, no matter what. Learn more at: http://friendspdx.org/
About Cambia Health Foundation
Based in Portland, Oregon, Cambia Health Foundation is the corporate foundation of Cambia Health Solutions, a total health solutions company dedicated to transforming the way people experience health care. Cambia Health Foundation is a 501(c)(3) grant-making organization that strategically invests and partners with organizations regionally and nationally to advance palliative care quality, access and understanding; to improve the mental and behavioral health of underserved children; and to transform health care to a more person-focused, equitable and economically sustainable system. Learn more at http://www.cambiahealthfoundation.orgor follow us on Twitter.