Spotlight: The Ohio Maternal & Child Health Approach to Supporting Adolescent & Young Adult Mental Health
December 06, 2022

Ohio is one of five state teams participating in the Association of Maternal & Child Health Program’s 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 Ohio team is led by Sara Haig, who serves as the Adolescent Health Coordinator in the Ohio Department of Health’s Bureau of Child and Family Health (BCFH). Ohio’s Maternal & Child Health (MCH) program joined the collaborative in July 2021 to accelerate its efforts to address a priority need that emerged from its 2020 Title V Needs Assessment, which is to “increase developmental approaches and improve systems to reduce the adolescent and young adult suicide rate.” Below is the Ohio MCH program’s approach to addressing this priority issue.

Objective #1: Reduce risk and increase protective factors for adolescents.

Strategies include:

  • Implement evidence-based adolescent resiliency projects.
  • Continue MCH participation in existing prevention and workgroup coalitions, such as the Ohio Anti-Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying Initiative.
  • Provide resources, technical assistance, and professional development to health professionals working in schools and at the early childhood level to support resiliency and decrease harassment, intimidation, and bullying.
  • Support programming in local communities for professionals and community members on preventing violence and responding to victims of violence.

Objective #2: Develop a plan for MCH to support implementation of the Ohio Suicide Prevention Plan among targeted youth population.

Strategies include:

  • Increase MCH representation on State Suicide Implementation team.
  • Identify gaps in state programming that would fit within MCH work.
  • Explore programs that MCH can support.
  • Coordinate work within MCH to align with state plan and external partner programs.

Since July 2021, the Ohio MCH program has leveraged its participation in the AYA Behavioral Health project to convene key partners across the state in an effort to coordinate efforts and maximize impact. Partners who make up the Ohio AYA Behavioral Health project team include: Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Ohio Department of Education, Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers, and providers. Over the course of the past 18 months,  team members have spent time getting to know one another and their respective organizations and mapping out each organization’s relevant AYA mental health initiatives. Once the group had a clear picture of its existing AYA mental health initiatives across the state,  members identified that clinical systems presented the biggest opportunity for impact given each of the partners’ resources and priorities. Since identifying the clinical space as their priority setting, the team has connected with existing initiatives, including the Ohio School Wellness Initiative. The team also worked together to identify potential funding opportunities to enhance the capacity of primary care providers across the state to screen for and treat mental health conditions among AYAs. Once the project wraps up at the end of December, the team plans to continue meeting quarterly to build on the momentum and relationships established last summer.


“We as a team quickly realized that the most beneficial aspect of this work was the relationship building. There is a lot of great work happening in Ohio around adolescent mental health and we worked to identify where gaps exist and how our collective work could help fill those gaps. This is not short-term work, and all of us as a team are committed to continuing on past the completion of this learning collaborative.” – Sara Haig, Ohio Team Facilitator