Mental Health

Youth with mental health conditions represent a large segment of youth and young adults with disabilities (Y&YADs). Depression, anxiety and behavioral disorders are among the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents, and roughly 100,000 young adults experience first episode psychosis each year. If left untreated, these conditions can significantly affect an individual’s future employment prospects.

In addition, youth and young adults with other disabilities may have mental health needs, which can likewise impact their employment outcomes. Mental health conditions often co-occur with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition, there are a variety of factors which increase the risk of Y&YADs experiencing trauma; unresolved trauma can lead to long-term mental health conditions and put youth at further risk for long-term employment consequences. While trauma was pervasive in the United States prior to the pandemic – 10% of children had experienced three or more adverse childhood experiences in their lives – the risk of trauma has been particularly high during the COVID-19 pandemic.

States can take tailored approaches to identifying and addressing the needs of youth and young adults with mental health conditions  those whose primary disability is a mental health condition and those who experience mental health conditions in addition to their primary disability.

Potential state strategies include:

      • Engaging in cross-system collaboration (including among state vocational rehabilitation and mental health agencies) to support youth with mental health needs in accessing and navigating services;
      • Providing coordinated specialty care (CSC), a recovery-oriented treatment program for people with first episode psychosis that assists with early intervention and provides better clinical and functional outcomes than typical treatment;
      • Applying best practices in trauma-informed care within the workforce and other youth-serving systems to improve access to employment for youth who have experienced trauma;
      • Expanding workplace supports for individuals with mental illness, including Individual Placement and Support, a form of supported employment for people with serious mental illness;
      • Connecting students and families to resources and services, including direct support services, for coping with mental health challenges amid and following the COVID-19 pandemic;
      • Increasing access to tele-mental health services; and
      • Offering guidance to school mental health providers on providing tele-counseling services.
New York State Shape

OnTrackNY is a CSC treatment program for Y&YADs experiencing psychosis in New York. Each OnTrackNY team serves 35-45 individuals and consists of two licensed clinicians, one education and employment specialist, a peer specialist, a nurse and a prescriber. Services include therapy, psychiatry, family support, education support and employment support.


The Wisconsin Student Services Prevention and Wellness Team holds weekly “Community of Practice” Zoom calls to guide student service professionals – including school counselors, psychologists and social workers – on supporting student mental health during school closures.


This brief from the State Exchange on Employment and Disability (SEED) provides a range of policy and program options for states to consider in addressing the mental health needs of workers (those with existing mental health conditions and those who have developed mental health conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic).

This CAPE-Youth webpage provides an overview of strategies that states are using to address the mental health needs of Y&YADs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes offering guidance to school mental health providers on providing tele-counseling services, offering direct mental health support services and connecting students and parents to mental health resources.

This CAPE-Youth brief highlights how elements of CSC delivery, including supported employment and education, can be funded using traditional sources and alternative options to support youth experiencing a first episode of psychosis and contribute to their long-term success.

This CAPE-Youth brief outlines how states can implement trauma-informed practices within their workforce and other youth-serving systems to facilitate the recovery of Y&YADs from trauma they experience (including as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic) and to mitigate the effects of trauma on their employment outcomes.