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Local organization, Reach for Youth, sees increase in youth dealing with mental health issues from violence

United Way funding is helping the organization reduce current waitlist
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Posted at 11:06 PM, Nov 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-12 18:36:52-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Reach for Youth on Indy's north side focuses on working with youth who are struggling with their mental health.

"We've seen huge increases in anxiety, depression, the social isolation," Ashlyn Douthitt, Reach for Youth's Supervisor of Mental Health & Clinical Services said.

Many of the students Douthitt and other clinicians serve are referred to the organization from local schools.

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Many have been victims of crime or are dealing with trauma, exposure to community violence or domestic violence. At Reach for Youth, kids learn coping skills and how to avoid conflict.

"I think sometimes that youth can get a bad rap. It's like, oh, you know, the youth are struggling with this... they're using drugs. They're doing this and they're misbehaving, but I think we have a lot of great youth, and they just need some guidance," Douthitt explained.

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The kids Reach for Youth serves those ages ranging from 7 to 18-years-old, but the organization also takes what's called a "two generation" approach by serving their parents and caregivers through a program called Reach.

"So what we've done with our two gen program, is really look at how to help young people and parents attain sustainable employment, how to get young people to really be engaged and motivated, motivated in academics, and learning about themselves, their skills, their talent," Denise Senter, Reach for Youth's Director of Mental Health, Education and Innovation said.

Leaders say the demand for the Reach program is high, but funding from the United Way's Family Opportunity Fund is reducing the current waitlist and helping Reach for Youth expand their outreach.

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"When you invest in both the children and the youth, and their parents or caregivers in the household, the outcomes are tenfold. So we see greater outcomes in educational success, and ultimately greater outcomes in economic mobility that reduces poverty here in Central Indiana," Shannon Jenkins, Impact Senior Director at United Way of Central Indiana said.

The Family Opportunity Fund is solely for organizations taking the two gen approach. The funding supports everything from adult education, to employment coaching and early childhood education.

"There's not one single way or one single program to reduce poverty throughout any community. So, to serve over 4000 families, that means there are 34 different programs, 34 different models," Jenkins said.

Before receiving the funding from United Way, leaders hoped to serve around 80 students in the Reach program, but now they say they expect to serve well beyond that number.