The Young Adults in Transition Citizenship Project was designed to promote the development of a system of care that better meets the needs of young adults who received public mental health services as adolescents. The goal was to establish a formal role for these young adults in designing and implementing this system through information gathering and the development of a young adult advisory council that will report to state policymakers. Using a CBPR approach, CQI hired several interested young adults to learn about the system, advise on research questions, and then present the report.
CQI endeavored to accomplish this goal, first, by conducting face-to-face interviews with a diverse group of young adults with mental illness about their experiences, some who have continued to receive services and others who have not. The resultant report was thus based on a survey largely qualitative in nature that identifies the issues most important to "young adults in transition" and the help they want. It also identifies what kinds of training and support are of most interest to young adult consumers to make them the best systems advocates.
Secondly, CQI hired several young adults and worked with M-POWER to train them to effectively present information about their experiences and those of their peers, as well as to make recommendations for system improvements, to state policymakers. CQI hired three young adults with mental illness to take a lead role here, and learn about how the system operates. Even before the report was completed, two of the young adults were supported in joining the newly started Youth Development Committee (YDC), and became its co-chairs. When they presented the results at key policy forums, they combined the hard data with their own personal stories of challenge and triumph. The YDC completed a document highlighting recommendations to DMH for improving the system's capacity to work with youth in transition, largely based on CQI's report. As a result, DMH began to fund both youth peer mentoring and youth advocacy training, and has begun to consider "transitional" case managers. CQI obtained funding for one of the young adults to edit the booklet: "Recovery Stories Written by Inspiring Young Women," which DMH now uses as a training manual. The other young adult now works for M-POWER coordinating the peer mentoring project. In 2005, DMH gained a 3 million dollar legislative line item to develop innovative youth in transition programming across the state. Transitional youth councils have now been developed in many DMH areas across the state.