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ASPIRE Teen Mental Health Program Develops Collaborative Initiative to Expand Services Throughout California

August 29, 2018 – El Camino Hospital’s After-School Program for Interventions and Resiliency Education® (ASPIRE) program has developed a consortium with CHOC Children’s, Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, and Mission Hospital to expand the availability of teen mental health services in California. The intensive outpatient therapy program, now in its eighth year, is designed for young people ages 13-18 with significant anxiety or depression or other symptoms related to a mental health condition.

“Expanding teen mental health services through our ASPIRE program has long been a goal,” says Daniel F. Becker, MD, chief medical director of Mental Health & Addiction Services at El Camino Hospital “Through the ASPIRE consortium, we hope to broaden the impact of our innovative program. Together with our partners we can increase awareness about adolescent mental health and provide hope for teens and families throughout California.”

The ASPIRE program was founded by El Camino Hospital in 2010 in Mountain View, California after a number of teens died by suicide in the local community. The growing need for teen mental health services and the positive impact of the program encouraged hospital leaders to work together to make the ASPIRE program available to more youth throughout the state. CHOC Children’s, Hoag, and Mission Hospital joined the consortium and launched their ASPIRE program sites in early 2018.

“Like the nation as a whole, Orange County has witnessed troubling growth in the number of teens in our communities who are not receiving the help they need for depression and other mental health issues,” said Sina Safahieh, MD, board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry and program director of ASPIRE at the Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute at Hoag. “The resources we offer through ASPIRE provide teens and their families effective tools and resiliency training to overcome current mental health concerns, navigate future life stressors and thrive.”

ASPIRE provides structure and training in mental wellness skills, which help young people learn and implement healthy coping strategies. The program uses a framework of dialectical behavioral therapy to help teens learn the skills needed to help them succeed in life: emotional regulation, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness and mindfulness. Over the course of eight weeks, teens participate in training, coaching, and individual, group and family counseling. Parental involvement in the ASPIRE program is essential and the program helps parents learn supportive communication skills and techniques to help improve their relationships with their children.

“We’re dedicated to helping teens and their families live happy and healthy lives,” says Ryan Roemer, PsyD, manager of Adolescent Mental Health at Mission Hospital. “The ASPIRE program provides us with the framework and foundation to build and enhance much needed teen mental health services for our community.”

The ASPIRE curriculum offered at the new program sites is based off the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Accreditation approved curriculum developed by El Camino Hospital. Consortium members will have the framework to apply for WASC accreditation and to adapt and transform their programs to meet the needs of their unique communities. Additionally, the consortium partners have the option of expanding their programs to meet the needs of adolescent students and young adults as El Camino Hospital has further developed ASPIRE to include targeted programs serving middle school students and young people ages 18-25.

“We are so excited to add ASPIRE to the growing range of mental health services available at CHOC Children’s so that teens and their families have access to crucial resources during times of crisis,” Micaela Thordarson, PhD, licensed psychologist at CHOC Children’s.

In 2014, El Camino Hospital Foundation launched Fulfilling the Promise, a fundraising initiative to support El Camino Hospital’s expansion of its mental health services to help fill the regional gaps in care and better serve our community. This community effort has contributed $6.7M to date and served as a catalyst to generate discussion, reduce the stigma and create community.