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State funding to address youth vaping crisis through mental health help

Posted at 6:23 PM, Jun 04, 2024

COLORADO SPRINGS — The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a nonprofit that helps young people through mental health challenges.

The executive director, Lori Jarvis, said mental health is a crisis that goes hand and hand with substance use.

"It is sort of an epidemic in of itself, following Covid, the mental health challenges that we're facing," said Jarvis.

Jarvis told me youth vaping prevention starts with mental health help. "It doesn't take long to figure out that you're only masking symptoms with substances and those symptoms aren't really going away, it's just giving you some temporary relief."

To combat both, the state is offering up to $20 million in grants to schools and community partners across Colorado. Some school districts in our area have already applied.

The money comes from a 2023 Juul lawsuit settlement.

"Colorado historically has been on the very low end of spending around behavioral health, mental health issues, we're seeing a lot of encouraging signs," said Jarvis.

El Paso County Public Health officials said tobacco is targeting teens, but it is hard to get in front of the vaping problem.

"By the time we get more familiarized with new products, they come out with something new," said Claudia Lara.

More funding could mean more county public health resources in schools.

"It is sad to see this is becoming an issue in our schools but it's also great news for us to be able to provide more of our education pieces and our prevention program," said Lara.

Jarvis says the number of people they served nearly doubled from 2022 to 2023.

"I actually am encouraged because I think more people are reaching out for help than ever before," said Jarvis.

NAMI offers free weekly family mental health support programs in person and online.
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