Convergence Center For Policy Resolution

Convergence Collaborative on

youth Mental Health

Seeking to close the gap in access to mental health services by increasing the use of community support individuals.

The Vision

We envision a world where young people have access to mental health care they need. Key to realizing this vision is creating culturally competent and age-appropriate mental and behavioral health program models. It is essential that youth and young adults are involved in the creation of these models.Given how many young people lack access to the mental health services they need, we advocate for additional public and private funding to increase access to quality mental health support for all youth. Achieving funding parity between mental health and physical health programs is another essential ingredient in fulfilling this vision.  

Finally, we envision a world in which preventive measures and support are widely accessible before mental health challenges become acute, which can be both effective and cost-saving. This working group of advocates, mental health professionals, and public health leaders are dedicated to the well-being of our youth, and we believe that one of the most promising strategies for advancing our vision is to accelerate access to supportive community individuals such as peer support, near peers, paraprofessionals, and caring adults outside the traditional mental health workforce, thereby broadening and diversifying service networks and making mental health care more accessible and effective for our youth.  

Our vision is not just about creating a better future for our youth but about shaping a society that values mental health as much as physical health, and recognizes that everyone, especially our youth, deserves access to quality mental health care.  

The Problem

The mental and behavioral healthcare needs of youth and young adults in the United States outstrip current capacity in our system, especially for historically marginalized groups such as youth of color and LGBTQ youth. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, young people with intersectional identities already disproportionately faced mental health issues, and the pandemic disrupted the limited mental health services available to them, particularly school-based services.

The combination of pandemic-related consequences (such as school closures, loss of economic stability, and illness), recent increases in gun violence, and difficulty accessing treatment have all significantly impacted the mental health of children and young adults. As a result, mental health challenges are persistent or worsening, while provision of care is more expensive. Increasing access to appropriate and effective mental and behavioral health care and prevention for youth and young adults is urgently needed. 


The number of children ages 3-17 diagnosed with anxiety increased by 29% and depression diagnoses rose by 27%


By 2023, more than 50% of young adults in the U.S. ages 18-24 reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression.


42% of LGBTQ youth having seriously considered attempting suicide 2021
The Trevor Project

Strategies to expand access using community support individuals

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Increase public and private funding & reform policies

  • Greater funding from private health insurance for community support models 
  • Increase federal, state, and local support for the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline and expand non-crisis call/text options, including youth-driven efforts 
  • Encourage states to leverage Medicaid billing and expand reach of what mental health supports Medicaid can cover 
  • Identify and leverage philanthropic funding for research and programs  
  • Create youth and family collaboratives to shape policy ideas and provide input on programs to provide a voice of lived experience 

Increase staffing in Community Support Roles

  • Standardize terms defining community support individuals and the required training.  
  • Improve accessibility to community support individuals in schools, primary care, and other youth settings 
  • Support competitive wages for all types of mental health service personnel    
  • Increase staff support and mitigate burnout and compassion fatigue.  
  • Support a culturally and ethnically diverse mental health workforce 
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Create best practices to ensure program quality

  • Work with professional organizations representing formally trained mental health professionals to build stronger connections with community support individuals and develop pathways to expanding the workforce 
  • Conduct research to further build an evidence base for effectiveness of peer and community support  
  • Involve youth in program design and program delivery 

Next steps: Creation of a toolkit

Most immediately, the group calls for the creation of a toolkit for those seeking to launch and expand access to mental health programs for youth using community support individuals, including peer support and adults. Elements of the toolkit should include:

  • Definition of roles of professional and community support individuals 
  • Framework for training/credentialing of community support individuals  
  • Strategies for financial support  
  • Specific action steps for key audiences—policy makers, youth, health systems leaders, etc 
  • Strategies for building collaborations among mental health professionals 

Program PARTNERS and funders

Interested in funding a project in the future?

Check out our donate page or contact our development team to learn more.

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