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Pilot program hopes to address youth mental health needs

Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 10:16 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 3, 2021 at 12:07 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Lowcountry mental health advocates say there is rising need for services coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. They say for young adults that need is even greater.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Charleston area board of directors recently approved a proposal to develop a youth program for ages 12 to 17, that is designed to address the gaps in mental health care.

Constance Goodnight is the founder of the program, which will be called the Speak LOUD project. She has experience working in mental health, mostly with young people and their families.

“The re-occurring thing that I hear from youth is that they don’t have a voice. That they’re not being heard, and they are not a part of the treatment planning,” Goodnight said. “That’s kind of how I came up with Speak LOUD project, for their voices to be amplified and that they do matter. Every youth has a story to tell, every family, and every parent. Everybody has a story.”

The program will start in a center in North Charleston but Goodnight says she hopes it will expand to other areas that NAMI Charleston Area serves.

Through guided focus groups, minors who have mental health struggles or troubles in other areas will be able to come together and share their stories.

Last year, South Carolina was ranked 47th in the country for access to mental health care and 48th for youth services by the non-profit Mental Health America.

The youth pilot program is part of a larger effort to increase services for care after mental health treatments, which is a focus for NAMI Charleston Area.

“After a stay at a psychiatric unit, people don’t stay there forever and there’s nowhere else to go. So treatment ends there if there’s no direct after-care set up for that patient,” NAMI Charleston Area Executive Director Rob Aitcheson said. “In some cases, it’s transitional housing or continued therapy and treatment, and out-patient programs. These are the wrap around programs that help people readjust to life and give them a chance to succeed. "

NAMI Charleston Area is currently in the fundraising process of the project, but they hope to launch the program in October 2021.

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