Spotlight: The Arizona MCH Approach to Supporting AYA Mental Health
March 14, 2022

Arizona is one of the state teams participating in the Adolescent & Young Adult (AYA) Behavioral Health learning collaborative, which aims to improve access to depression screenings with linkage to high quality follow-up care if needed among AYAs (12-25 years old). The Arizona team is led by Angie Lorenzo, who serves as the Chief of the Office of Women’s Health at the Arizona Department of Health (ADHS). Arizona’s CoIIN participation came on the heels of a priority need that emerged from their 2020 Title V Needs Assessment, which is to “enhance equitable and optimal initiatives that positively impact the emotional, physical, and social wellbeing of adolescents”. Below, we highlight the Arizona MCH program’s comprehensive approach to addressing the priority need.

Arizona’s 2021-2022 Title V Adolescent Health action plan lays out a robust approach to address the priority need and includes the following strategies:

  • A coordinated statewide approach: guided by the Arizona Department of Health Services’ Suicide Prevention Action Plan
  • Prioritizing equity: partnering with Tribal organizations
    • The MCH program engaged Arizona’s 22 federally recognized tribes to assess the MCH needs of Native American/Indigenous communities. This was achieved through contracts with Diné College to conduct a Needs Assessment for the Navajo Nation and with the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA) to conduct the Needs Assessment for the other 21 federally recognized tribes. These assessments leverage MCH’s ongoing relationship with Arizona’s tribal partners to identify and support efforts to address their unique MCH needs.
  • Intentional youth engagement: establishing diverse youth advisory councils across the state on topics such as substance use, mental health, and bullying
  • Workforce development: certifying local health department teen pregnancy prevention educators in Youth Mental Health First Aid to train youth-serving providers; and funding the ITCA to establish a Youth Mental Health First Aid to provide trainings in tribal communities across the state.
  • Strategic collaborations: partnering with the Office of Oral Health to identify the best methods for promoting preventive medical and mental health visits for adolescent during regularly scheduled dental visits
  • Creating safe environments that promote prevention:
    • Leading the Bullying Prevention Stakeholder Workgroup (a multi-agency task force)
    • Promoting the “Must Stop Bullying” campaign in school and community settings
    • Supporting AZ’s Sexual Violence Prevention Strategic Action Plan for 2020-2025

To further accelerate and build upon their Title V action plan, the Arizona team has started to implement and test out the following innovations as the focus of their work for the AYA Behavioral Health learning collaborative:

  • Continuing to promote alignment of the state-level approach by coordinating with the state’s school-based behavioral health learning collaborative team to accelerate progress
  • Establishing partnerships with rural area suicide prevention entities
  • Planning for an anti-stigma campaign and web resource site created by youth for youth
  • Collecting data to understand the needs of primary care providers in being able to refer patients to more advanced mental health care supports

We asked Angie what advice she has for other MCH professionals working to address AYA Behavioral Health needs:

As an adolescent health champion, it’s important to establish partnerships across the state and collaborate with experts who can provide input and further the work. It’s also important to be creative in one’s approach to stretch funding. Funding limitations don’t mean limited ideas. It’s important to share those ideas with internal and external partners who do have the means to bring them to fruition; and to figure out how existing resources can be leveraged.