Onondaga County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) was recently awarded a $4 million grant over the next four-years from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  This grant will fund the implementation of the OnCare Transition Age Youth System of Care (SOC), which aims to transform the way mental health, educational and other supportive services are delivered for high-risk youth ages 16 -21 transitioning into adulthood.  This funding will allow the community to provide coordinated treatment and the best opportunities for success in the home, school and community. With services expected to start in early 2020, this effort will focus on service delivery and infrastructure through the following:

  1. Development of creative ways to identify, connect and intervene with high-risk youth experiencing mental health and substance use challenges;
  2. Creation of a dedicated team to assess and match the individual to mental health services, substance use services, educational/employment resources, skills training programs, and other supportive programming that meet youth needs and support their transition into adulthood;
  3. Training for providers and school systems in evidence-based models that tailor current practices to be accessible, trauma-informed, skill focused, non-stigmatizing and developmentally appropriate; and
  4. Creation of safe and supportive environments for caregivers and family members to provide feedback to system partners, learn about resources and creative parenting techniques and support one another in meeting the needs of their children.

Children with significant behavioral and emotional challenges are at greater risk for being victimized, less likely to graduate from high school or go to college, and more likely to be involved in the justice systems.  There are opportunities to combat this however, as experience has shown that these youth and their families can benefit from a coordinated and creative approach to care and services. With care that is tailored to their needs, these youth are far more likely to experience success in home, school and the community, and far less likely to become involved in either the justice system or the residential/hospital care systems.  With this Transition Age Youth SOC, families can gain more confidence in their children’s ability to effectively transition into adulthood to be successful as adults.

Onondaga County has previously received two System of Care (SOC) grants. The first, in 2009, focused on infrastructure building for the children’s mental health system and resulted in successful structures for program administration, governance, strategic planning, engagement of community stakeholders, cross-system service development, and evaluation. The integration of SOC values and practices across all Onondaga County child-serving systems resulted in a reorganized county structure. The newly formed (2014) Department of Children and Family Services encompasses children’s mental health, child welfare, juvenile justice, school-based initiatives and youth development. The second SOC grant, the OnCare Juvenile Justice Project, was funded in 2015 and was targeted to support the behavioral health needs of young people involved in the justice system.

For more information about OnCare and their Transition Age Youth System of Care, contact Tashia Thomas-Neal, Esq., OnCare Project Director.