Caring for our Adolescents

Deb Starnes

In spring of 2020, IHCRC's Behavioral Health Department had a waiting list of more than 60 youth. Additionally, staff had begun to recognize the need to offer support for American Indian youth identifying as LGBTQ2S+. A study by Kids Data found that 7.6% of California's Native American youth identified as LGBTQ2S+. Using that percentage to extrapolate Oklahoma numbers, more than 1,800 Native American adolescents ages 10-18 are LGBTQ2S+. (2,610 when adolescents who are dual race or ethnicity are included.)
IHCRC submitted a proposal to the Upswing Fund, a national funder created to address the mental health needs of adolescents of color and those who identify as LGBTQ2S+. The primary goal of The Upswing Fund project was twofold: (1) reduce the behavioral health wait list for Native American youth ages 10-18, and (2) increase in the number LGBTQ+ adolescents served throughout the clinic.
During the course of the project, the behavioral health wait list for youth ages 10-18 was cleared. No new wait list has developed. Additionally, 61 new youth ages 10-18 presented for care during the project year, 20 of them identified as LGBTQ2S+. Although the Upswing Fund grant has ended, IHCRC continues the position originally funded through this grant. The position has proven to be a valuable asset for Native American youth in the community.