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Places for People's "MO-Tay" Team

Pilot project helps young adults during pivotal time

A pilot project at Places for People is directed toward providing support to individuals who are at a transitional age range when they are no longer a child, but not quite an adult yet either.

The Missouri Transition-Aged Youth Local Engagement and Recovery program (MO-TAY-LER) serves individuals between the ages of 16-25 who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. The Missouri Department of Mental Health received a five-year grant from SAMHSA to fund the program. The Behavioral Health Network of St. Louis administers the grant, with Places for People providing services in St. Louis City, BJC Behavioral Health providing services in St. Louis County, and Compass Health serving counties west of St. Louis.

At Places for People, the “MO-Tay” team has been aligned with adult services. Anna Frank serves as Program Manager for adult Community Psychiatric Rehabilitation services at Places for People. She said the program exposed individuals in this age range to the expectations of care for adults, but also to be more realistic about the needs in this transitional age range. Often providers are “expecting them to function like adults, and they were just a kid yesterday.”

Kathleen Murray leads the three-person “MO-Tay” team at Places for People.

“Our goal is to help them transition through an already difficult process of adolescence to adulthood, but also dealing with severe mental health impairment as well,” Murray explained.

Our goal is to help them transition through an already difficult process of adolescence to adulthoodKathleen Murray, Places for People MO-Tay Team Leader

For participants who have received services earlier in life, this is an opportunity to provide support as they take more control over treatment and understanding of mental illness.

Often, Murray explained, youth will drop out of services, only to return years later. The risk in the years between is that without treatment, they will have turned to self-medication to address symptoms.

“We’re finding that a lot of people in those ages will end up with addiction or maybe even incarcerated because they are not transitioning well,” she said.

The MO-Tay program hopes to reduce the number of young adults falling through the cracks.

“Our goal is to reduce substance addiction, reduce hospitalizations, reduce out of home placements, and to lower the number of suicides.”

The team includes Murray who performs outreach and intake in addition to her duties as team supervisor, an integrated health coach to provide consistent coordination of care, a psychiatrist, and an Education and Employment Specialist.

This adds an education component to the evidence-based employment support program provided to adults at Places for People. Frank said having an Education and Employment Specialist “opens the door to the possibilities of what an individual can do.”

The MO-Tay team started accepting referrals in November 2019. Referrals currently come from three sources: the Youth or Adult Emergency Room Enhancement program, a direct referral from a hospital liaison, or from a partner healthcare organization.

Five individuals are enrolled already, with nine more individuals in the outreach phase. The team’s current capacity is between 12-15. The addition of another integrated health coach later this year would allow approximately 20 more participants.

“I love the energy that the kids have. They have a lot of vibrancy and hope for themselves,” Murray said.

To keep participants engaged, Murray and her team host special gatherings a couple of Fridays each month. “We want to make it fun,” she said. “We want them to feel really cared for. The best way that I know of to care for someone is to feed them,” Murray said.

The gatherings are not just about food, however. They help establish peer support, and can provide an opportunity to practice soft skills such as etiquette and interacting with others.

“We’re trying to give them that extra piece that you can’t write into a treatment plan, but is needed,” Murray said.
“We’re trying on this team to very much think about the individual needs of this particular population because they’ve been ignored for so long.”

Before becoming the team leader for this program, Murray worked in Places for People’s Youth and Family Services program for nearly two decades.

In that experience, she learned “the unique engagement needs of a young person.”

“There’s so much more than just needing to get to an appointment on time,” she said.

Young adults are thinking about relationships and money and a job. “It’s our goal to help them understand how doing this helps with those things, but really engaging around their goals.”

Murray said participants are expected to be in the MO-Tay program between 1-2 years. Their destination after that varies. Some may achieve all of their treatment goals and not need additional services. “Some we would like to see graduate on to outpatient treatment,” she said.

Some participants will move on to adult treatment teams for longer-term support. Murray said in those cases, the hope is that participants will make a smooth transition and remain engaged and proactive in their own care.

Looking down the road, Murray could see this program remaining a part of Places for People’s repertoire beyond the life of the grant. “I would love to see this become entirely its own program.”

Our goal is to reduce substance addiction, reduce hospitalizations, reduce out of home placements, and to lower the number of suicides.Kathleen Murray, Places for People MO-Tay Team Leader