Family advocacy for mental health



Colorado has a long history of efforts supporting families of children and youth with serious mental health challenges. A key aspect of these efforts has been to make family advocates available to families of children and youth with serious mental health challenges. This has included:

  • Two comprehensive system of care of care projects, Cornerstone and BLOOM, supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Both initiatives provided family advocates/family support partners to participating families.
  • Participation in the 2009 National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health Policy Academy - "Transforming Children's Mental Health through Family-Driven Strategies."
  • Development of an online Family Advocacy Toolkit by the Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health-Colorado Chapter in collaboration with stakeholders.
  • The Collaborative Management Program (HB 04-1451), which includes family advocates and other family engagement efforts in many of the participating communities.
  • COACT Colorado a current System of Care Implementation initiative supported by SAMHSA. Each participating community has at least one trained family advocate.


Colorado is unique among all states in having legislation that recognizes the importance of providing support to families of youth with mental health challenges who are in, or at-risk of becoming involved with the juvenile justice. First, HB 07-1057 authorized the development and evaluation of three family advocacy demonstration programs focused on this population. These initiatives focused on three different settings - schools in Montrose County, the juvenile assessment center in Jefferson County, and a youth detention facility in Denver.

Second, HB 11-1193 kept the family advocacy framework and definitions intact and requires CDHS to develop rules and standards, 2 CCR 502-1, 21.200.4 and provide technical assistance to aid in the development of family advocacy programs. The rules and standards cover areas such as policies, training, supervision, and data collection.

Colorado and National Family Organizations

Family organizations

National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health
9605 Medical Center Dr.
Rockville, MD 20850
P 240.403.1901

The National Federation provides advocacy at the national level for the rights of children and youth with emotional, behavioral and mental health challenges and their families. It also provides leadership and technical assistance to a nation-wide network of family run organizations. It collaborates with family run and other child serving organizations to transform mental health care in America.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
3803 N. Fairfax Dr., Ste. 100
Arlington, VA 22203
P 703.524.7600 | Information Helpline800.950.NAMI (6264)

NAMI is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI has a national organization as well as state organizations and local affiliates in more than 1,100 communities across the country.

Resource centers

Research and Training Center for Children's Mental Health
University of South Florida
Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, Department of Child &, Family Studies
13301 Bruce B. Downs Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33612-3807
P 813.974.4661

The Center addresses the need for improved services and outcomes for children with serious emotional/behavioral disabilities and their families. The Center conducts research, synthesizes and shares existing knowledge, provides training and consultation, and serves as a resource for other researchers, policy makers, administrators in the public system, and organizations representing parents, consumers, advocates, professional societies, and practitioners.

Research and Training Center for Pathways to Positive Futures: Supporting Successful Transition for Youth and Young Adults with Serious Mental Health Conditions
Portland State University, Regional Research Institute and School of Social Work.
PO Box 751
Portland, OR 97207-0751

The Center aims to improve the lives of youth and young adults with serious mental health conditions through rigorous research and effective training and dissemination. Their work is guided by the perspectives of young people and their families, and based in a positive development framework.

National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health
Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development (GUCCHD)
Box 571485
Washington, DC 20057-1485
P 202.687.5000

Using a multifaceted approach, the Center provides information, technical assistance, and training on system and service strategies for achieving positive outcomes for children and youth with mental health needs and their families.

Federal organizations

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
1 Choke Cherry Rd.
Rockville, MD 20847-2345

SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities by targeting effective substance abuse and mental health services to the people most in need and translating research in these areas more effectively and more rapidly into the general health care system.

Family Advocacy Resources