Yesterday, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano joined Pacific Clinics and the families, students, and teachers who have participated in the Youth Suicide Prevention Program for a ten-year anniversary luncheon at Santa Fe Springs Town Hall. Napolitano helped start the program with federal funding in 2001, and has supported it throughout its expansion into 15 local schools over the last ten years.
"For ten years, this program has provided critical care and healing for many students and their families," Napolitano said. "Children who struggled with terrible burdens on their own are now able to seek professional treatment that includes support from their family, friends, and teachers. I applaud everyone here for their bravery and success in addressing these issues, and ask all of us to support the resources we need as a community to ensure the best possible future for our youngsters."
The program works by partnering local school districts with Pacific Clinics to put on-site mental health professionals in the schools, where they can assist students, make family visits to the home, and raise awareness about mental health issues.
"My experience was life changing. I learned to focus on the good things in my life instead of one bad experience," said Kristina, a student. "It's the best thing I ever did, and I know from experience now not to be afraid to seek help."
"Our relationship has gotten stronger and her self-esteem has gotten better," said Elizabeth, her mother. "As a parent, I just wish this program was available sooner, and I wish back then I knew what signs to look for."
Background on the Youth Suicide Prevention Program:
· The formal title of the program is Latina Youth Program, because it was originally targeted at Latina youth. However, because the program has since expanded to include students of all backgrounds, it now goes by "Youth Suicide Prevention Program."
· Rep. Grace F. Napolitano first funded the program in 2001, after learning that one in three teen Latinas has contemplated suicide. Three local schools partnered with health care provider Pacific Clinics to offer on-site, linguistically appropriate mental health services for students.
· Napolitano continued to support the program in subsequent years and it met with success expanded to 15 local elementary, middle and high schools.
· The program offers early intervention/treatment for young people with mental health issues. Trained professionals work directly in the schools, where they can get to know students and spot problems early, and also involve the family and the larger community. Many visits take place in the home to reduce the stigma of visiting a doctor's office.
· Program is completely free and open to all students.
· Napolitano helped the program with its initial funding and has helped provide more than $3 million in federal funds to date.
· Preventive mental health services save money by preventing crime, costly court trials, jail time, emergency room visits, job losses for those suffering, and reliance on state and federal services.
· Rep. Napolitano has introduced the HR 751, the Mental Health in Schools Act, which would create $200 million in grant funding that schools across the country could apply for to partner with local mental health providers and recreate the local youth suicide prevention program in their own schools.