Neurobehavioral Program: ASPIRE - Adolescent Mental Health

Overview

Families across Orange County are facing significant and increasing challenges with their adolescents. Little support exists for children and their parents moving through this fragile stage of development. For many families, unaddressed neurobehavioral challenges have become devastating catastrophes.

In 2010, 30% of students in the Newport-Mesa school district reported drug abuse. 50% reported alcohol abuse, and the numbers continue to rise. Cooccurring mental health disorders feed and are fed by this substance abuse epidemic. If you are a parent of a teen in Orange County today, you likely have your own story – direct or indirect – to underscore this unfortunate reality.

Hoag Neurosciences Institute has launched a programmatic answer to this glaring community need: ASPIRE (After School Program: Intervention and Resiliency Education) is an intensive outpatient program for adolescents, ages 13-17, with primary mental health disorders and possible co-occurring substance abuse challenges. The program is evidence-based and outcomes driven, and guides teens and their families through an eightweek curriculum of skills-based training in stress management, resiliency, interpersonal communication, mental health and substance abuse education.

The program is offered at Hoag’s Center for Healthy Living in Newport Beach, with an additional location in Irvine in development.

Program Summary:

• Adolescents 13-17 and their parents

• 8-week outpatient program; skills-based curriculum

• 4 nights weekly for 3 hours; parents 1 night weekly

• Multidisciplinary; psychiatrists, therapists, RNs

• Collaborative with local schools; school credit earned

Program Goals:

• Early intervention

• De-stigmatize mental illness and mental health care

• Promote mental and behavioral health and well-being

• Emphasize “skill building & resiliency training”; de-emphasize “therapy”

• Empower parents for the unique demands of this life stage

• Help adolescents navigate the challenges inherent in the age, and build a foundation for young adulthood

Community Partnership

Hoag is working in close collaboration with both Newport-Mesa Unified School District and Huntington Beach Unified School District. Hoag is positioned to support high school teens identified with mental health challenges by the school staff. Hoag and the school districts are working to provide high school credit to those adolescents that complete the ASPIRE program.

Team

The Aspire clinical team is led by Sina Safahieh,M.D. Dr Safahieh is board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry, and will provide the program’s medical and clinical leadership, creating a unique partnership between Hoag and CHOC to meet this community need.

Jerry Weichman, Ph.D., is the program’s clinical advisor. Dr Weichman specializes in mental health treatment for teens and their parents. Dr Weichman owns The Weichman Clinic, oversees the Hoag Teen Brain program, and he is a published author and sought-after speaker.

Kevin Alexander, DBH, LPCC, is the clinical program manager. Dr Alexander recruited the clinical team, structured the program content, and has positioned ASPIRE to be a model for adolescent mental health treatment. Dr Alexander is overseeing the program’s clinical and patient experience outcomes that are in the beginning stages of data collection given the recent launch of the program.