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Oklahoma County program offers hope for teens, young adults

NorthCare's Youth Transitions program helps 16- to 24-year-olds with mental health conditions get on their feet and find independence. Statistics show this is a vulnerable population, and many young people don't access to mental health services.
BY JACLYN COSGROVE Published: December 23, 2012

Mom's thankful

Ramona Ollerdisse is thankful her son chose to stay in Youth Transitions. Earlier this year, she worried he was on the fast track to prison. This is the case for many teenagers like Brandon.

About 65 percent of boys and 75 percent of girls in juvenile detention have at least one mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Ramona Ollerdisse would like to see the program expanded to help more kids like her son. With Christmas quickly approaching, many residents have or will donate money to a list of worthy causes.

“That's once a year,” she said. “Let's donate for some places like this to help these kids so they don't wind up dead or where their parents never see (them) again or out on the street, dealing drugs at a young age or doing drugs and overdosing. I've seen too much, and I don't want to see it any more, and I definitely don't want to see it with my son.”

Ollerdisse went to Edmond North High School for three days his freshman year before getting kicked out for fighting. He never went back.

About 50 percent of students age 14 and older who are living with a mental illness drop out of high school. This is the highest dropout rate of any disability group.

Ollerdisse is working on his GED and might go to trade school after he finishes. He isn't sure what he wants to do.

At 18, many young adults with mental health conditions are left out on their own, said Sarah Rahhal, clinical director at NorthCare.

Parents and caregivers should work to meet the needs of this age group, rather than be dismissive of what might be going on, she said.

“It's such a vulnerable time in anybody's life, much less somebody with a mental health disorder,” she said. “ ... For young adults with mental health issues, it amplifies that vulnerable time period.”


Vallery Brown, Staff Writer