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For Young People with Psychosis, Early Intervention is Crucial

Each year, an estimated 8,000 adolescents and young adults in California experience their first psychotic episode, according to Thomas Insel, Newsom’s mental health adviser. Insel extrapolated that number from data showing that every year about 100,000 young people nationwide experience their first psychotic episode.

“Early intervention preserves the most important pieces of a young person’s life — relationships with family and friends, success at work or school,” said Tara Niendam, executive director of Early Psychosis Programs at the University of California-Davis.

Research corroborates Niendam’s view, and California lawmakers have endorsed it: The California state budget signed earlier this year by Gov. Gavin Newsom provides $20 million to create early intervention programs and expand existing ones.

Only about half of the state’s 58 counties have such a program, and many of those that do struggle to keep them open because of a lack of funding and a limited pool of trained behavioral workers.  Merced County does not have an early intervention program such as the one at UC Davis.

Nationally, the median time between the first symptoms of psychosis and the start of treatment is nearly a year and half, according to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health. That is six times longer than the World Health Organization’s recommendation of three months or less.

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