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Transition Age Youth in Oregon

(Excerpt from the White Paper: Transition Age Youth in Oregon: Considerations for a Statewide Model of Care White Paper)


Multiple system barriers at the federal, state and community level contribute to the problems transition age youth ages 16 – 24 face in Oregon. These transition age youth are 80% less likely than any population in Oregon with mental health needs to receive services. 


Barriers to service include: Eligibility guidelines for financial and housing services; differences in ‘eligible’ diagnoses between child and adult mental health providers; conflicting roles among service providers; a lack of age appropriate community resources and a (youth) culture that is often difficult to engage in services. While these are difficult issues to resolve, a concerted effort must be made. The State of Oregon pays millions of dollars each year to treat these youth as children and adolescents. Then at the point in their lives when intervention can have a profound impact on their lives and their ability to live as independent, productive adults the existing systems fail to provide adequate services to them.


In adolescent mental health the early symptoms of mental illness are not easily diagnosed. The under-developed symptoms of mental illness often overlap with the normal turmoil of adolescence. Behavioral difficulties or drug and alcohol use frequently cloud the underlying symptoms. When service providers lack the clear criteria for psychotic or other formal thought disorders the diagnostic uncertainty is often a barrier to providing adequate care. For parents and guardians, fear of what the youth might do often results in adolescents being placed in restrictive residential treatment programs or in attempts to obtain a court order for civil commitment.


According to the Journal of General Psychiatry,  “Virtually all persons who met criteria for a DSM-IV psychiatric disorder at age 26 had met diagnostic criteria for a mental illness at an earlier age. Most notably childhood conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder was part of the developmental history of the majority of all adult disorders.” Unfortunately, neither conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder meets criteria for adult mental health services.


Although some people develop mental illness in adulthood, more often the onset of Severe Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (SEBD) interferes with critical periods of development during childhood and adolescence. The onset of mental illness in adolescence often has a long-term impact on the individual’s capacity to function as an adult. 


To view the complete White Paper, Transition Age Youth in Oregon: Considerations for a Statewide Model of Care White Paper, click here for a PDF of the paper.


Transition age Youth AMH Response Flow Chart (PDF)


To refer a client for transition age services please contact, Nancy Allen at (503) 945-5864 or Nancy.a.allen@state.or.us