TAY Centers Support Youth and Mental Health Help
By Dianne Anderson
How to buy groceries, gas, and – for those who still have a home – keep the air conditioning on during the two-month scorching heatwave, are among the root causes of mental illness for the hard-hit low-income Black and Brown community.
It’s getting on people’s nerves.
Health Advocate Linda Hart sees a fine line between depression, anxiety, and economics.
Mental health is fragile these hot days, for younger and older adults alike.
“There’s a lot of anxiety, depression coming out of post-COVID. It’s been very difficult for individuals because of trauma that may or may not have occurred in their homes, evictions, losing jobs, high gas, high food prices, it’s one bombardment after another,” said Hart, who works with Riverside University Health System – Behavioral Health.
Hart, CEO of the African American Health Coalition, started her nonprofit after the suicide of a young woman in her own family, and felt compelled to get more mental health resources to the community. These days, she sees more impact on mental health stemming from mounting evictions.
Entire families with their children are now being kicked out of their homes.
“Those are a lot of stressors, anxiety over an eviction notice. Next thing you know, where are you going to store items? Where are your kids going to school? If you have pets, where are you going to put them?” she said.
In Riverside County, her target outreach to the Black community is reaching families and individuals with early intervention and prevention.
“Our part is passing information to community members, letting them know that these services exist. If someone is interested, we direct them to the TAY [Transitional Age Youth] center and provide linkages to the community to the services,” she said.
Mental health services are trying to keep up with the demand statewide.
Last month, Gov. Newsom announced a mental health systemwide overhaul Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health, a state investment of $4.7 billion toward mental health and substance use services, and to add 40,000 new mental health workers statewide.
“We’re investing billions of dollars to ensure every California child has better access to comprehensive mental health and substance use services. The Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health is premised on a very simple belief: every single kid deserves to have their mental health supported. That’s the California Way – putting our kids first,” said Gov. Newsom, who announced the plan at McLane High School in Fresno.
Marie Arnold with Riverside University Health System said the TAY program is set up to provide a non-stigmatized experience.
The office is clinical, but it doesn’t look clinical.
She completely understands what prevents the community from seeking help. Having grown up in a first-generation Mexican family, no one ever spoke about it.
“That was something that other people did, we didn’t do that. We never talked about our mental health. I see that a lot with other ethnicities and backgrounds,” said Arnold, previously senior peer support specialist at the Stepping Stones TAY Resource and Support Center.
Another aspect of TAY outreach is that it offers a peer-run center. Youth walk in and are greeted by people that look like them. Of their four therapists, one is white, one is Black, and two are Latino. Typically, around 15% coming in are Black youth.
“They’ve walked a mile in their shoes, that’s what the TAY Centers are all about. People with lived experience, everyone that works downstairs have received mental health services or have had a family member with a mental health diagnosis that they support,” said Arnold, who is now a manager for the RUHS Behavioral Health Parent Support Program.
TAY program works with 16 to 25-year-olds, some are foster youth, and some may have been kicked out of their homes by their parents for coming out as LGBTQ. Others may have had their first episode of psychosis in college.
Most of their clients have Medi-Cal and access Lift services, but any youth that calls, but doesn’t have a ride, she said their staff members will jump in the car and pick them up.
The word is getting around.
“We have therapists, and one of our therapists has at least 100 clients and that’s just one. We have at least 300 on our caseload at one time,” she said, adding they have about 100 youth come for drop-in services.
Stable housing is the biggest need for the youth, something that she continues to meet and collaborate with their partners, such as Safehouse youth shelter. She also works with housing programs through the city, some offer vouchers for youth and foster youth.
At the center, they host workshops, help with resumes, and computers to apply for jobs online. They have a clothes closet where the youth can get dressed to impress for the interview. They also partner at the TAY Center in San Bernardino, which provides similar services, and at times, they send their youth to that program.
She said some participants are referred to the Youth Opportunity Center in Rubidoux, a complete job training center.
“Once we get them rolling here and they want to continue, we refer them to that program. We’ve seen some of our youth really be successful in finding jobs and to navigate on their own once they get the training,” she said.
To get help, Riverside County has three Transitional Age Youth (TAY) Centers. See www.rcdmh.org/children-services/tay.
To access the new California Children’s Mental Health Resources Hub, see https://www.chhs.ca.gov/childrens-mental-health-resources/
To see the African American Health Coalition, see www.theaamhc.org