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Three SAMHSA Grants Support Young People with Mental Illness and Serious Emotional Disturbances

The content below may contain dated material as it was prepared for the media in advance of Pittsburgh’s hosting of the G20 in March 2010.  

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Behavioral HealthBureau of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services was chosen as one of two county agencies nationwide to receive three separate federal System of Care grants to support young people with serious emotional disturbances or mental illness and their families. The grants through the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in concert, support a System of Care Initiative (SOCI) for persons ages birth to 25 years of age, who live in select communities in the County.

The first SAMHSA grant for $4.8 million over six years, initiated in 1998, allowed OBH to initiate the Community Connections for Families (CCF) program for youth ages six to 14 years and their families. A $1.5 million SAMHSA grant awarded in 2002 resulted in Partnership for Youth Transition (PYT) for young adults ages 14 to 25 years. The most recent grant, valued at $6.4 million over six years and awarded in October 2005, provided for the Starting Early Together (SET) program that supports children younger than six years of age.

SOCI programs have been honored with multiple national awards since being established.

  • In 2001, CCF was nationally recognized for achievement in communications at the 2001 Excellence in Community Communications and Outreach (ECCO) Awards.
  • In 2003, CCF won multiple national awards, including two awards at the ECCO Recognition Program and three awards in the ninth annual Dalton Pen Communications Awards Program for its multi-media campaigns, “School Days,” and “It’s All About U.” The overall CCF social marketing initiative was developed to support children with behavioral health concerns in their interaction with peers and teachers.
  • In 2008, utilizing a monthly journal read by physicians across the county, SOCI reached out to the medical community to help identify parents and children who might qualify for and benefit from SOCI involvement. This effort earned one SOCI administrator the ECCO Award at the bronze level.
  • In 2009, SET was selected as the winner of the Honoring Excellence in Evaluation at the bronze level for Operations Evaluation for the process staff and families developed to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. 
  • In 2011, SET was awarded the ECCO Award at the bronze level for the development and distribution of the Explore Your Emotions coloring and activity book for Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day in 2010. Developed by the DHS Office of Community Relations in partnership with SOCI, more than 50,000 coloring and activity books have been sent out through corporate, nonprofit and governmental partners across Allegheny County.

Youth who participate in SOCI are realizing noteworthy achievements as well. Two Allegheny County SOCI PYT youth members took center stage at the 2009 National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day celebration in Washington, D.C. They competed against participants in 12 other systems of care nation-wide and won the opportunity to perform for the national audience.