Ascension St. Vincent Evansville Awards $17,000 to Strengthen Kids Grant to Support Youth First Services in Diocese of Evansville Catholic Schools


    Ascension St. Vincent Evansville has awarded $17,000 to Youth First, Inc. for vital services and programs in Diocese of Evansville Catholic schools.

    Youth First’s purpose is to strengthen the mental health and well-being of young people so they can live safe, healthy, and productive lives. This year 86 Youth First Social Workers and Mental Health Professionals, along with evidence-based prevention programs, are embedded in 119 schools across 12 Indiana counties and accessible to over 50,000 students, their parents and caregivers.

    Ascension St. Vincent Evansville’s gift will help provide service to 24 Catholic schools across five counties, including 13 in Vanderburgh County.

    The U.S. Surgeon General, American Academy of Pediatrics, and others have declared a national youth mental health crisis, as suicide rates and drug overdoses have soared in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Youth First’s data since the start of the pandemic mirrors the national concerns. Over the last several school years, Youth First’s caseload data reflected a 58 percent increase for suicide risk, an 84 percent increase in interventions for immediate behavioral concerns, and a 73 percent increase in teacher/staff consultations, with a growing number of educators seeking support for their own stress as well as their students’ needs.

    Youth First embeds mental health professionals, primarily master’s level, licensed social workers, in schools to serve as specialized mentors for students and prevention coaches for parents and teachers. They also coordinate with community partners to connect students and families to resources and services. They build caring relationships, foster readiness for positive change, and boost resiliency along with other valuable life skills. Research shows these protective factors are the keys to preventing addiction, suicide, violence, and similar outcomes for young people. The organization’s positive outcomes are driving growth, with more schools seeking Youth First’s help to address the mental health needs of students and best equip them for success. Youth First services are free for students and families thanks to funding partners like Ascension St. Vincent Evansville.


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