Boys and Girls Club providing mental health resources to Arizona teens

The partnership is designed to target kids at risk of entering the juvenile system by intervention and teach important behavioral and healthy coping skills.
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 9:20 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Sixty percent of youth with depression do not receive mental health treatment, according to mental health America. Depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts are also up 20% since the pandemic began. To help fix this, one Phoenix development program for youth and teenagers now has mental health services.

It’s all part of a new partnership between the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Valley and Terros Health. It’s a three-year partnership designed to target youth at risk of entering the juvenile system by intervention and teaching important behavioral skills and healthy coping mechanisms.

Just a few months in, they already see a marked improvement. “For over 75 years, boys and girls clubs of the Valley have been dealing with kids who come from trauma backgrounds,” said Boys and Girls Clubs of the Valley President and CEO Marcia Mintz. “What do our kids need today? What are they struggling with right now? Anxiety, depression, self-harm, really not having a footing in this world.

By partnering with a local mental health counseling group, Terros Health, Mentz says they can help at-risk youth and teens in unique ways. “We are also giving kids tools that they can use right there if they are frustrated, if they have issues, if they’re just feeling sad they can be pulled out and have someone who is really qualified and experienced to talk to and we can get these kids finally the help that they need,” Mintz said.

Kimberly McWilliams, the senior director of clinical excellence in children’s operations at Terros Health, says early intervention is key. “Our behavioral health specialists, they’re therapists. They might see something in a basketball game, in the art room, or during one of the other activities that the boys and girls club team members are leading and if they see behaviors that are of a concern, they will intervene immediately,” said McWilliams.

McWilliams says that early intervention is actually prevention. “These interventions, they do prevent what we would consider mental health diagnosis later on,” McWilliams said.

The program is just a few months old and already a success. “I went through a traumatic phase in my life, but I made it through. I passed it and pushed myself to be here”, said Xitlalic Portillo, a teen in the program.

Mintz says Portillo is a perfect example of how the partnership is helping kids in adverse situations get back on track. “They made me think about new things education wise and helped me out in school,” Portillo said.

She is now working two jobs in addition to attending high school full-time. She tells me the organization helped her with college prep and applications. If you’d like to get involved, click here.