UCI News

UCI leads development of drop-in mental wellness centers for O.C. youth

Multiple county partners collaborate to implement innovative allcove care model

January 11, 2022
UCI leads development of drop-in mental wellness centers for O.C. youth
“We know a lot of different things contribute to well-being: education, being well physically and mentally, being connected with your community. There is a desire to bring all these elements together to create a place where youth can come to receive mental and behavioral health services,” says Stephen Schueller, UCI associate professor of psychological science, who will direct the allcove team in Orange County and oversee an allcove center on the UCI campus. Han Parker / UCI

Irvine, Calif., Jan. 11, 2022 — Orange County will be home to new youth drop-in centers offering wellness services to those between the ages of 12 and 25. Endorsed by Orange County to apply for a $2 million grant from California’s Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission, the University of California, Irvine will partner with the Wellness & Prevention Center in south Orange County to establish and administer youth drop-in centers following the allcove model.

The Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing created the allcove model based on observations and studies of youth mental health programs around the world. The allcove mission is to develop “an innovative network of integrated youth mental health centers designed with, by and for youth that reduce stigma, embrace mental wellness, increase community connection and provide access to culturally responsive services.”

“The easiest way to think about what allcove is trying to create is ‘one door for all,’” said Stephen Schueller, UCI associate professor of psychological science and director of the project. “We know a lot of different things contribute to well-being: education, being well physically and mentally, being connected with your community. There is a desire to bring all these elements together to create a place where youth can come to receive mental and behavioral health services but also be presented with a variety of different opportunities to help support their wellness, like educational workshops and occupational preparation.”

Schueller, who also directs UCI’s Wellness Initiative in Social Ecology, will head the allcove team in Orange County and oversee an allcove center on the UCI campus. The Wellness & Prevention Center will lead another site in south Orange County. Multiple partners will participate in the project, including CHOC Children’s Hospital, the Orange County Health Care Agency, Insight Psychotherapy Group, the Capistrano Unified School District, Laura’s House and the James Henry Ransom Foundation. During the grant period, UCI and the WPC will explore opportunities for additional locations to augment the outreach of the allcove model across Orange County.

“My vision is that all our young people understand what allcove is, why they should go there and that they feel welcome. I want every area of Orange County to be served. The bigger goal is the entire state of California, and Stanford’s goal is the entire country,” said Susan Parmelee, executive director of the WPC.

The first two allcove centers opened in June 2021 in two California locations, Palo Alto and San Jose. Five additional allcove projects have been funded by California’s Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission, with San Mateo, Sacramento and two Los Angeles County sites joining Orange County as hosts of the next allcove centers.

“We’re glad the Orange County community has the opportunity to develop two new allcove centers and are excited to support their implementation,” said Dr. Steven Adelsheim, clinical professor of psychiatry & behavioral sciences at Stanford and director of the Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing.

The allcove vision is a place “where every youth belongs, chooses the support they need and thrives.” Those from 16 to 25 years old will inform all decisions via youth advisory groups at both Orange County locations.

In preparing the proposal, Schueller, in partnership with the Orange County Health Care Agency’s behavioral health services unit, conducted surveys and focus groups with more than 600 UCI students to solicit their input. To continue student input on the campus center as it develops, the Wellness Initiative in Social Ecology has organized a peer advisory collective. The WISE PAC is led by Phoebe Pham, a junior majoring in psychological science and social ecology who also serves on the Central allcove Team Youth Advisory Group, which includes young people across California.

“We want to be able to provide resources to our fellow students and youth from the community, giving them guidance on how to get started on treating anxiety or mental health, because students have difficulty seeking help,” Pham said. “I think the allcove center will make the help-seeking process less intimidating overall, especially knowing that the first people you’re meeting are other young people who can relate to you.”

The allcove centers will also provide an excellent training opportunity for UCI students in psychology at the undergraduate and graduate levels, especially those within UCI’s new clinical psychology Ph.D. program. With its unique design, the allcove model can offer future mental healthcare providers experience in what Schueller called the “next generation” of services.

“One-on-one therapy will not solve the problem alone,” he said. “There’s too much demand, and there’s never going to be enough supply. allcove presents an innovative way of thinking about bringing things under one roof and meeting the needs of a focused group – youth and young people – that’s really in need. We need to figure out better ways to provide services that are developed for them, by them and with them, so I think training people in these new ways of care delivery is critical to how we solve these problems.”

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced five Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

About UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign: Publicly launched on October 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The School of Social Ecology plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting https://brilliantfuture.uci.edu/uci-school-of-social-ecology/.

About allcove: Pursuing a vision where every youth belongs, chooses the support they need and thrives, allcove is developing an innovative network of integrated youth mental health centers designed with, by and for youth that reduce stigma, embrace mental wellness, increase community connection and provide access to culturally responsive services. allcove centers are anchored in a model of care that considers the holistic needs of young people. We welcome those between the ages of 12 and 25, providing a place to take a moment of pause and access a range of services that include mental health, physical health, substance use, peer support, family support, and supported education and employment. allcove centers are designed to create meaningful, positive experiences for every young person who comes through our doors. For more information, please visit allcove.org.

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