This project will demonstrate the effectiveness of innovative policy solutions to promote Black youth mental health in Georgia. The population of focus is Black youth age 10-17 residing in Georgia, with a particular focus on subpopulations, including those living in predominantly Black rural counties, students in majority Black school systems, and communities with disproportionate rates of health and mental health inequities. In 2020, nearly 2.5 million youth under 18 lived in Georgia, of which 34%, identified as non-Hispanic Black. 13 rural counties in Georgia have a predominantly Black population and nearly 50 school districts have a majority Black student population. According to the 2020 Georgia Student Health Survey, 6% of Black students in grades 6-12 attempted suicide on at least one occasion, compared to 4% of White students. White Georgians are approximately 8 times more likely to have been exposed to 0 adverse childhood experiences than Black Georgians. Black students are disproportionately the subject of disciplinary action compared to their percent of the overall student population and disciplinary actions are often more severe for Black students compared to White students, even when the behaviors are similar. This project will address the high rates of unmet need for mental health services in Georgia by identifying, assessing, implementing, and evaluating innovative policy solutions that will promote Black youth mental health. The policies of focus for this project are those related to mental health treatment, suicide prevention, and school discipline. This project, led by Morehouse School of Medicine and supported by strategic community partners will achieve five objectives: 1) engage, recruit, and convene a multi-sector Advisory Council made up of public, non-profit, private, academic, community organizations, and individuals with lived experience, who will provide expertise and advice to the project, including development of the
Disparity Impact Statement, identification of policy options, assessment of policies, selection of high-impact policies, and dissemination of results from policy assessments; 2) use the OMH-developed Black Youth Mental Health (BYMH) Framework to review, identify, and analyze existing policies that could be tested for potential crossover effect to promote mental health in Black youth, including those at risk for suicide; 3) implement one (1) to three (3) innovative and culturally effective policy approaches using an evidence-based model across three separate implementation settings in Georgia; 4) complete a process, outcomes, and impact evaluation that assesses the extent to which 1) implementation of the BYMH Framework identified crossover effect of policies shown to be effective in addressing other health promotion and prevention areas on Black youth’s mental health, including Black youth at risk for suicide; 2) activities were completed within identified timeframes; 3) the implemented tool resulted in improved adherence to the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health and Health Care; and 4) the implemented tool resulted in analysis of policies across environmental and ecological factors, such as communications, physical environment, housing, education, and criminal justice; and 5) participate in evaluation of the effectiveness of the methodological framework, structured process, and tool to identify and modify policies to improve health outcomes; and 6) document and disseminate project findings, including lessons learned, successes and challenges, and develop a sustainability plan. Successful completion of this project will provide evidence for innovative policy solutions that promote Black youth mental health. Project findings will be disseminated broadly to support project sustainability and expanded use of the BYMH Framework to advance health equity across the state and nation.