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Free program focusing on teen mental health reaches kids nationwide

Program leaders call Growing Teen Advocates an “educational boot camp” in the areas of substance abuse and mental health.

PATASKALA, Ohio — The COVID-19 pandemic may be especially tough for teens considering the experiences they are missing out on  – on top of the isolation and change in routine everyone is facing. 

The directors of Pataskala’s Native Alliance Wellness Center recognize that, which is why they started a free program called Growing Teen Advocates. 

Program leaders call it an “educational boot camp” in the areas of substance abuse and mental health.  

They also tell 10TV that the program is needed now, during the pandemic, more than ever. 

“I’m seeing firsthand, the depression and the substance use – it’s individuals that wouldn’t have normally engaged in some of these behaviors are more apt to do it now,” said Mariah Delmindo-Moore, director of addiction services at Native Alliance Wellness Center. 

Growing Teen Advocates is a free, six-week program available to teens ages 13 to 17.

In order to both maintain safety measures related to COVID-19 and to give each teen individual attention, the sessions are limited to six in-person participants and four Zoom participants.  

The first session has already kicked off and Delmindo-Moore tells 10TV they have students participating from as far away as South Carolina.  

The curriculum of the Growing Teen Advocates program spans from drugs and alcohol, to brain and behavior, to suicide awareness, and everything in between.  

Current participants will graduate from the program on October 8 but registration has already opened for the next session, which kicks off on October 15.  

“The reason we do this for free is because you cannot put a price on today’s youth,” Delmindo-Moore said. “You know, our youth today are going to be the adults tomorrow and I would rather service them now for free than have them with a diagnosis as an adult.”  

To learn more about Growing Teen Advocates, click here.

Parents can request an application for the program through the chat on the page.