YouthZone column: Collaboration between partners needed during heightened mental crisis

Jami Hayes
Jami Hayes

During the last year, YouthZone experienced a significant need for intensive mental health and substance use counseling and support for our families in our communities. Substance-related referrals doubled, and parent consultations and education significantly increased.

From 2019 through 2020, YouthZone served 1,300 youth and families through counseling, coaching, parent education and restorative justice. Twelve percent of those referrals were substance-related issues. During COVID-19, our mental health report to present referrals rose 40% for substance-related issues. Intake assessments indicated a 6% increase in the high-risk category and a significant spike in areas of depression, anxiety and substance use.

This referral trend is on the rise for YouthZone and its program partners. The American Counseling Association has designated this mental health crisis as the next pandemic, with access as the biggest barrier.

While this data may not be surprising to many who are working in the field, the increase has created a crisis response for YouthZone and our partners to pull in as many resources as possible. Organizations serving youth have an increased responsibility to collaborate regionally to create a comprehensive quilt of care in our communities. The power of our energy, expertise and resources as a collective force is needed more now than ever.

We encourage members of our community to talk to city, county and state officials about this crisis and urge our funding partners to unite with a regional focus. With intentional collaboration, we can dig deeper into systemic and long-term change in the mental health landscape of our communities.

As the new edxecutive Director of YouthZone, it has been an inspirational shift to be a leader in our nonprofit community serving youth. Our services are provided at a minimal cost with secured funding to support families at no cost if needed.

YouthZone’s counselors and youth advocates are driven to provide the best programming to address mental health for youth with a wide range of resources for youth and families:

  • unique assessments to target intervention;
  • mental health counseling including substance use and trauma;
  • substance use groups;
  • youth coaching and life skills;
  • parent coaching;
  • restorative justice with youth
  • restorative justice for community partners and schools.

YouthZone is currently involved in a listening tour to assess our systems and accessibility. We would love to hear from our community about what YouthZone can do to support healthy kids and families. Call us at 970-945-9300 or email

Jami Hayes is the executive director for YouthZone and has been working with youth and families throughout her career. Jami has spent the last 14 years working with the Roaring Fork School District, leading and working to improve the education experience for local families.

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