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NEW WEBSITE CONNECTS YOUTH TO FREE MENTAL HEALTH SESSIONS
The mental well being of children continues to be a paramount issue, especially as the global pandemic wears on.
And now, thanks to a $9 million commitment from the Colorado Legislature, children up to the age of 18 have a resource that can connect them with up to three free sessions with a mental health professional.
Through the I Matter website -- imattercolorado.org – participants take a short survey to assess the mental health-related needs requiring attention. If the results indicate that professional assistance is needed, the site will connect users to a provider for an initial 45-minute session: primarily through tele-health.
As one of the initial questions asks if the young person is in immediate crisis, a “yes” answer directs the user to a crisis line for a more timely response.
The new program is a partnership involving The Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavior Health and other agencies. Informed by youth feedback, I Matter will be staffed by 32 state-hired mental health providers, who are expected to provide 350 appointments per week. Additional providers are expected to be hired as the program progresses.
Although I Matter is designed for children between the ages of 12 and 18, youngsters under the age of 12 can access the service with parental assistance and guidance.
Additionally, young adults up to the age of 21 receiving special education services can utilize the free resource.
The objective the state-funded website, legislators say, is to reduce as many barriers to professional mental health access as possible.
Back in May, a state of emergency was declared by Colorado Children’s Hospital due to unprecedented numbers of young people experiencing mental health crises.
While many of those issues were related to the challenges poised by the pandemic, officials say Colorado youth were struggling long before the corona virus hit: as revealed through Healthy Kids Colorado studies and information provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Nationwide, information from the Centers for Disease Control indicates that mental health-related emergency room visits among young people between the ages of 12 and 17 jumped 31% from 2019 to 2020.
Andy Burns, the District’s Executive Director of Student Support Services, said youth in distress, as well as families, should take full advantage of this beneficial and free service.
“Our students and staff are dealing with a handful of issues right now,” Executive Director Burns said. “And the state, as well as the District, want to provide resources to address these issues and get on the path toward success and health.”
Initial funding for I Matter will allow the program to operate through the end of the current school year. Local providers interested in participating in the program are encouraged to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or someone you know is in crisis or needs help dealing with one, call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255 to speak to a trained professional.