CEI Supports Statewide Opportunities for Youth and Family Engagement in Behavioral Health System

As part of a four year, $9.4 million SAMSHA System of Care (SOC) cooperative agreement, WSU’s Community Engagement Institute (CEI) is partnering with the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) and four pilot areas of the state served by four mental health centers: Compass Behavioral Health, Wyandot Center for Community Behavioral Healthcare, South Central Mental Health, and Sumner Mental Health Center. SOC funds are intended to increase and improve behavioral health services families and youth, while also engaging parents and young people in statewide policy-making.

This past summer, CEI staff conducted a listening tour which provided an opportunity for local and state policy leaders to hear directly from youth, family members, and community partners about the strengths and barriers within and across Kansas’ child-serving systems. CEI staff facilitated discussions about what is working for parents and youth who seek help and what causes frustration. Simon Messmer, CEI’s Project Coordinator for the collaboration with Kansas SOC, shares his experience: “The wisdom of parents and kids about how to improve "the system" is remarkable and too often overlooked. By creating and supporting platforms for them to be heard by policy-makers, we're helping to make changes that will have a positive impact on families across the state. It's exciting to be a small part of that.”

In addition to local, community efforts, steps have been taken to create more opportunities for families and youth at the state level. CEI assisted in establishing two statewide committees: SOC Advisory Council and a Social Marketing Committee. Both committees are led by families and youth. These groups focus on enhancing community voice and creating policy change. Through these committees, a statewide social marketing strategy has been developed and approved. It will reach families, youth, and caregivers throughout the state with news, resources, and community connections.

Finally, CEI has worked closely with youth and others to develop a toolkit to help youth build and govern their own local peer support groups. Janell Stang, CEI’s Youth Engagement Specialist who worked to develop this toolkit, says “I am excited for youth to start using the toolkit and I hope it empowers them to lead within their groups and help others to use their voice”.

CEI is proud to be part of this collaborative agreement to put control of mental health care back into the hands of consumers and is looking forward to another year of progress for the state of Kansas.

If you would like to be part of this work, join us at the upcoming SOC Statewide Advisory Council Meeting on Thursday, January 25th, from 5-7 pm at WSU’s downtown location, 238 N Mead, Wichita, KS. Also visit our website and connect with us on Facebook!