As part of Children's Mental Health Week, hundreds of young people and their families will gather in Salem next Friday to celebrate an important milestone -- 10 years of success in mental health care for their children. We will be joining them in that celebration.
The event will not only celebrate success, it will also demonstrate the great things that happen when the right care is delivered at the right time in the right way. This is exactly the type of care we need more of throughout our health care system.
The families are part of a pilot project that began 10 years ago in five mid-Willamette Valley counties with one simple goal: help children with psychosis lead safe, independent and healthy lives. Organizing around that goal, they have broken through cultural, structural and governmental barriers, and today there are hundreds of graduates who are a testament to their success. Since 2007 the project has expanded to serve children and young adults in 16 counties within a network of programs known as the Early Assessment and Support Alliance (EASA).
Psychosis is an illness that strikes about three in 100 people, and the onset is usually between the ages of 15 and 25. Left untreated, it can throw families into chaos and put the futures of these young people at risk, too often including long-term institutionalization and a lifetime in the disability system. But with early intervention, treatment and support, they can succeed in school, work and life.
With EASA, families and service providers and the state collaborate in a team-based approach as soon as the first symptoms are identified. The Addictions and Mental Health Division supports the local efforts in a variety of ways, including helping them use state and federal dollars for support and treatment focused on independence and wellness.
That was the support Zoe needed after her adult child experienced symptoms of psychosis. The family was connected to the EASA program in Deschutes County, which put together a team including a psychiatrist, a nurse, a social worker, and later an occupational therapist and a job specialist.
EASA staff helped the family arrange for daytime home care, team members made frequent house calls, and a social worker was always ready to meet with any family member who wanted to talk. "They were there 24/7," Zoe says.
Almost two years later, her child is doing well and looking forward to living independently.
This family's experience is backed up by the data. With EASA, hospitalizations dropped by nearly 79 percent. Encounters with the legal system dropped by 43 percent. And employment increased by 74 percent after nine months.
That's better health for these young people and lower financial and societal costs for everyone. This is truly something to celebrate.