May 07, 2024

Friends - Central Oregon: Partners in Mental Health Support

At Friends of the Children, we want every child in our program to recognize their own unique abilities, have the skills to navigate life's challenges, succeed in school, and have a plan for the future. The youth we serve have big hopes and dreams, but often face great obstacles - such as poverty, violence, substance abuse in the home - that can increase the risk of experiencing a mental health challenge.

Recognizing this, Friends of the Children – Central Oregon has partnered with a local mental health clinic to provide real-time education and coaching to professional mentors in their work supporting the mental health of youth and caregivers.

Over a year ago, Friends – Central Oregon applied for funding from a local health council to invest in a partnership with Juniper Mountain Counseling. Each month, Juniper Mountain Counseling holds group sessions with the Friends to discuss the intricacies of the mental health challenges faced by the youth and families and help identify when additional intervention is necessary.

The work professional mentors do is deeply emotional and complex. Sessions with Juniper Mountain staff have allowed the Friends to talk about their experiences, find the tools to cope, and build the confidence to implement actionable solutions to support youth and caregivers when mental health challenges arise.

To seamlessly connect families to mental health services, the partnership with Juniper Mountain Counseling also guarantees priority access for Friends of the Children youth and families when a referral is made. Being in a rural community, this partnership has been a game changer for youth and caregivers to bypass historically months-long waiting lists. Additionally, because of the trust in the Friends, youth and families who need services but who might otherwise be unable or reluctant to access them, increase their engagement in the counseling support Juniper Mountain Counseling has to offer.

Juniper Mountain Counseling also offers individual counseling and therapy to the Friends – Central Oregon team at no cost. This has been instrumental in creating a culture at the chapter of prioritizing mental health and breaking the stigma around accessing care.

The impact of the Juniper Mountain Counseling partnership has already been significant for Friends – Central Oregon youth and families, equipping Friends, youth and caregivers with the tools they need to be healthy as they grow and thrive.