Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs


Fostering and sustaining true interagency collaboration to create coordinated service delivery systems is no easy task. In numerous studies on what leads to effective interagency collaboration, researchers consistently point to several main challenges:

  • Different definitions of collaboration
  • Lack of understanding of other agencies' policies and excessive use of jargon
  • Lack of communication between policymakers and service providers
  • Insufficient time for collaborative efforts in light of other responsibilities
  • Lack of sustained availability of key people
  • Unclear goals and objectives
  • Inconsistent service standards
  • Conflicting views on confidentiality issues
  • Establishment of new layers of bureaucracy
  • Difficulty in defining decision-making rules among team members
  • Resistance to change among agency members (Johnson, Zorn, Kai Yung Tam, Lamontagne, & Johnson, 2003)

Agencies that deliver mental health and substance abuse treatment services historically have operated as a set of self-contained silos. Each agency typically has its own defined population of focus and designs services accordingly, with little attention paid to peer agencies and their populations, mandates, or services. What results is a fragmented system of public services that do not efficiently or effectively meet the needs of young people (Schaeffer, 2009). In order to successfully reform such systems and create a cohesive, comprehensive array of services and supports for young people with mental health needs, agencies must overcome the challenges and find ways to effectively communicate, collaborate, and coordinate.