On Your Behalf

More than 3 million youth in the United States with severe mental illness are transitioning to adulthood, and "every day society fails them, placing a tremendous health and financial burden on countless families," APA member Arthur C. Evans, PhD, told a standing-room-only crowd at a Capitol Hill press conference on June 25.

The conference was held to unveil the Healthy Transition Act of 2008 (S. 3195/H.R. 6375), which seeks to help young people with mental illnesses by fostering greater coordination among schools, social services and the justice system.

The rate of serious mental illness is highest among the 18-to-25 age group, said Evans, who directs Philadelphia's Department of Behavioral Health and Mental Retardation Services. Because of their mental health challenges, more than 60 percent of teens with SMI do not complete high school. "This leaves many of these same young adults unemployed, unable to benefit from continuing education and without the skills needed to live independently," he said.

But with the right interventions-which could be fostered by this legislation-most people with SMI can improve their functional status and eventually assume successful roles in society.

"It is within our reach," Evans said.