June 25, 2008
Under the best of circumstances, the transition years from adolescence to adulthood are rarely easy. They are infinitely harder for young adults, ages 18 to 26, who live with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Their transitions are also made more difficult by the separation and differences that exist between the nation’s child and adolescent and adult mental health care systems.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued today estimates that 2.4 million young Americans living with mental illnesses fall within transition ages, but this estimate does not include young adults who are funneled into the criminal justice system, institutionalized or living homeless on the streets. Overall, the result is tremendous costs across different sectors of society, and a terrible toll on individuals and their families. There must be a better path to adulthood.
The GAO report highlights the challenges confronted by this special population of young adults, who live with mental illnesses through no fault of their own. It also focuses on programs in four states—Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts and Mississippi—that are specifically trying to help them. But the challenges of transition are a national issue. They exist in every state and community.
We need a 50-state commitment and strategy to provide life skills, education, housing, supported employment and other services that can serve as a foundation for the future for young adults in transition who live with mental illness.
NAMI applauds Senators Gordon Smith and Chris Dodd and Representative Pete Stark for their leadership in introducing federal legislation today that will help provide that national foundation. It is an important step forward. The legislation will provide state-wide planning grants to support states who seek to meet an urgent need.
The legislation is an investment in the future.
It will help young adults reach their full potential.
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