State Grant From Senator Morahan Launches Innovative Early Identification And Intervention Program For High School Teens

Thomas P. Morahan

May 03, 2007

Senator Thomas P. Morahan, whoserves as Chairman of the New York State Senate Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, stated, “If ever we needed a wake-up call, the tragic events at Virginia Tech gave us one. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in adolescents ages fifteen to nineteen. Over 90 percent of youth suicide victims have had at least one major psychiatric disorder, with depressive disorders being the most prevalent. About 80 percent of youth who are depressed are not diagnosed. We firmly believe that this program will begin to provide a local solution to a national problem.”

New York. “In light of the Virginia Tech massacre and the anniversary of Columbine, it is even more apparent that the mental health of our teenagers needs to be a priority. I applaud Senator Morahan for his prescience in the field of mental health. Just as we traditionally evaluate hearing and vision in our children, this unique pilot program finally gives us the opportunity to identify and intervene to improve the outcomes for our depressed, anxious, and suicidal teens. The time is right for child and adolescent mental health problems to be given expert consideration. We can’t afford to wait.”

Center,” said Ms. Walsh-Tozer. “I am looking forward to our collaboration on this project to help us enhance our screening for mental health issues including suicide among teens. Adolescents face many challenges, and I think that this effort is an important one.” Treatments offered to the families of identified teens will include evidence-based therapies and medical interventions and will seek to improve the accessibility and acceptability of care for those with psychiatric disorders.

Center, developed the educational and screening tools used in “STEPS.” According to Dr. Lucas, “‘STEPS’ is more comprehensive and more efficient than other programs in the field. It is threefold, focusing equally on screening; education of teens, parents, and teachers; and facilitating treatment.”

“Often those who are in a position to identify troubled teenagers lack the necessary tools and resources to connect students with appropriate treatment,” continued Lucas. “This results in many teenagers slipping through the cracks and not receiving any treatment at all.”

The three elements that differentiate “STEPS” from existing suicide prevention programs are:

  • Improving identification and help-seeking – The educational components of “STEPS” will raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of teens at risk. This will include reducing the stigma associated with screening, help-seeking, and treatment. The very real concerns of students and parents regarding confidentiality, labeling, and individual choice will be thoughtfully addressed in an effort to increase the proportion of parents who agree to have their adolescents participate in screening and the numbers of teens who receive high quality treatments.
  • Facilitating access to services - Finally, education and screening are not helpful unless one is able to connect teens with services that are likely to make a positive difference in their lives. The difficulty accessing high-quality and affordable treatment resources should not be underestimated. For this reason, a cornerstone of the “STEPS” program is the utilization of a variety of innovative treatment models including group and individual treatments offered at schools, and establishing new local clinics for the delivery of evidence-based therapies as well as developing consultative and referral mechanisms to support and link with existing school-based and local specialist mental health providers.


America’s youth living with depression and psychiatric disorders.