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Mental health services -- United States, Mental health policy -- United States, Young adults with mental disabilities -- Services for


To some people, “policy” seems like a mysterious and perhaps boring topic, compared to the busyness and intensity of everyday life. However, a growing number of youth- and young adult-led groups have shown how policy issues can influence their choices and their lives in critical ways, and that they can have substantial influence on policy. Policies may be general, and apply to all people in society (e.g., traffic laws), or they may specifically focus on particular groups of people, such as people with a mental health condition or criminal record (e.g., policies about housing or employment). Organizations such as Youth M.O.V.E. and other groups led by young people with mental health concerns have demonstrated that they can have important roles in changing flawed policies to make them better or to put positive policies in place. Examples of policy issues that might need change include rules about eligibility for housing or rent subsidies; increased young adult choice in treatment; greater availability of peer services; or more services, supports, and funding for young people entering college, among others.

This guide provides information about policy and policy change in mental health and other human services for young adult groups who want to be directly involved in policy change activities. Some of the many ways that young people can be involved in policy work include serving on advisory committees that consider areas where policy change is needed, participating on groups convened to review contract language about youth-related issues or serving on groups charged with developing rules and regulations to support recent policy change. A number of manuals or handbooks address these important roles, although few of them are specifically focused on mental health. This policy guide is written for youth- and young adult-led groups and organizations that want to make changes in policies that affect them and other transition-age youth. The intended audience for this guide is youth and young adults working together within a group or organization to make specific change, usually in partnership with other agencies, groups, or organizations. In fact, young adults who have been involved in successful policy change efforts often emphasize that their groups were able to accomplish their goals because they had supportive partnerships with other organizations.

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