Services for the UnderServed Addresses Mental Illness Among Young Adults Under New Citywide Initiative

Many youth are hit suddenly with mental illness during their teens and early adulthood. For some, it may be as many as seven years between their “first break” and the first time they formally receive treatment. This results in many of them lagging behind their peers as they transition to adulthood. Working in partnership with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), Services for the UnderServed (SUS) aims to change that trajectory.

With funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, DOHMH has launched Parachute NYC, a new citywide pilot, which provides options for people experiencing emotional and mental health problems. When youth grow older and fall into an adult age bracket for treatment—often leading to institutionalization—they are stigmatized and marginalized by society. This strips them of hope for the future and disconnects them from their communities.

Instead of going to a hospital, Parachute NYC offers a “soft landing” into mental health care and support for people in crisis. The project offers an alternative to traditional emergency room and inpatient care, through which young adults are diverted from institutional settings, and are able to avoid a revolving door of repeat hospitalization.

As part of Parachute NYC, SUS and several other New York City-based organizations were selected to create an integrated series of interventions for these individuals. SUS is the only agency chosen to serve young adults 18-30 years old with mental illness—those with little or no experience with the institutional mental health system, and those needing respite from their current living environments. SUS’ Parachute Project, a Crisis Respite Center (CRC) in Brooklyn, is as much a respite for these young adults as it is a prevention program. It offers them temporary residential care for up to two weeks, in a safe and supportive home-like environment, helping to prevent chronicity of mental illness.

During their voluntary stay, Parachute “guests” are taught recovery and relapse prevention skills with the 24-hour support of peers in conjunction with the clinical support of the Woodhull Hospital Mobile Crisis Team. Project staff work with the young adults and their families, where indicated, to develop a recovery plan that focuses on their immediate wellness goals in preparation for their return home, to school and to work. The Project is intended to help these young adults get their lives back on track as quickly as possible and restore their wellness by providing immediate and continuous care. This model is designed to ensure better continuity of care and recovery outcomes for these young adults and will reduce their use of emergency and inpatient care during psychiatric emergencies.

SUS’ effort in this space carves a new niche for the agency in the health care landscape by pioneering a new approach to treatment for this population, which is often overlooked in the mental health field. SUS is proud to be a partner in this new initiative, which empowers young adults in managing their own recovery from mental illness.

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