Coachella Valley youth and young adults are not immune to mental illness. The disease knows no boundaries and does not discriminate based on age, race, sex, religion or any other factor.

Half of adult mental illness begins before the age of 14, and three-fourths before age 24, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

More than 40 percent of youth ages 13 to 17 has experienced a behavioral health problem by the time they reach seventh grade. In addition, suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 24 after accidents and homicide.

Compared with their peers, people within this age group with mental disorders are more likely to experience homelessness, be arrested, drop out of school, and be underemployed, according to SAMHSA. Compared to all other chronic health conditions, mental disorders produce the greatest disability impact within this age group.

In recognition, Coachella Valley leaders are working to stem the numbers and protect the desert vulnerable youth.

A new center serving older teens and young adults needing behavioral health services, or just a safe environment and resources to help them navigate their journey into adulthood has opened in La Quinta.

Riverside County Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez and the Riverside University Health System (RUHS) – Behavioral Health are cutting the ribbon on the new facility, Desert FLOW, at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6 at the TAY Center in La Quinta, 78-140 Calle Tampico.

Desert FLOW is a resource and support center for transitional age youth (TAY), who are between the ages of 16 and 25.

Valley's Vulnerable Youth Receive Lifeline

(Photo courtesy of V. Manuel Perez)

“Our behavioral health department is trying innovative, nontraditional ways to work with youth with mental health needs,” Perez said in a prepared statement. “This center will be a lifesaver for some, giving youth in our community resources and support to achieve wellness and have bright futures.”

The center will offer educational groups, life skills training, family support groups, individual and group therapy, psychiatric and medication services, and activities including music, art and games. Peer support specialists, clinical therapists, a psychiatrist, nurse and other professional staff will support the programming. There will be a special focus on identifying and treating first-episode psychosis.

The La Quinta center is the first of three TAY centers that RUHS Behavioral Health plans to open throughout Riverside County. TAY centers are also on track to open early next year in the cities of Perris and Riverside.

“Inside the centers, young adults and their loved ones will find an open, supportive environment free of stigma and judgment,” Steve Steinberg, director of RUHS Behavioral Health said in a prepared statement. “We are creating a safe place to help vulnerable young adults find a path that will prepare them for long-term success.”