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Newest Behavioral Health Initiative Program Aims to Prevent Youth Homelessness


In a well-timed news conference coinciding with National Children’s Mental Health Day, Bernalillo County announced the Behavioral Health Initiative’s [BHI] latest program- Youth Transitional Living Services [YTLS]. Bernalillo County presented New Day, YDI, Casa Q, and Serenity Mesa with a ‘big check’ for $800,000 to incorporate the program into their operations.

“In Albuquerque on any given night, nearly 400 people, under the age of 24, are sleeping on the streets, most likely because they are fleeing physical, sexual and emotional abuse, they’ve aged out of the child welfare system, they’re experiencing household discrimination and homophobia, or due to household poverty,” said Commissioner Debbie O’Malley. “Providing these supportive services during these transformative years has a very stabilizing effect and is a critical component to building a continuum of behavioral health services in our region.”

Wrap-around services provided through the program including; independent living services, housing search and placement, vocational training, employment assistance, educational advancement, mental health and substance abuse treatment, financial empowerment, life skills, identity formation, and/or service coordination. The program does not directly cover housing, but rather focuses on the services needed to get a young person into housing and help them maintain housing.

The program, which was originally researched by the BHI’s Community-based Subcommittees, identified the need and found that at times youth are being held at the youth detention center, beyond their release date because they didn’t have stable housing. This program will fill that gap and support the youth and young adults with an array of services.

“This is our Behavioral Health Initiative at its best, identifying needs, at-risk populations and creating programs to help. Collaborations like this, are what will build a behavioral health system that keeps our neighbors, friends and family members from falling through the gaps,” said County Manager Julie Morgas Baca.

In addition to the youth experiencing homelessness or being precariously housed, they must also have a behavioral health condition and be 14-24 years old.

Together, Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque are strategically leveraging resources and making decisions with community member and stakeholder inputs through the Behavioral Health Initiative. This endeavor creates a model for improving behavioral health outcomes that could be replicated across the country. For more information about BHI click here.

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