Knoxville Leadership Foundation

Behavioral Health Treatment for At-risk 16-24 Year Olds in KnoxWorx

Youth unemployment is a growing national crisis and a significant local problem. Knoxville has one of the highest rates of disconnected youth (16-24 years of age who are not working and not in school) in the country. Young people who are unable to transition to jobs by their early 20’s are at risk for a host of negative outcomes, such as long-term unemployment, poverty, incarceration, substance abuse, and homelessness (Belfield, et al., 2012). The cost of lost human potential and financial resources is enormous, both locally and nationally.

KnoxWorx is a city-wide workforce development system that helps change the life trajectory of 120 of the most disadvantaged young people in Knoxville every year, by equipping them with education and credentials and placing them in full-time employment. Through a highly collaborative approach, we have developed a program that identifies and works to remove barriers that prevent them from entering the productive workforce. Despite our success, mental health issues and substance addiction are chronic and ongoing issues for this population. Yet, we have not found any viable solutions; there are long waiting lists and few treatment options in our community for those without financial resources, and little information about treating behavioral health issues in at-risk youth and young adults in workforce development programs.

Knoxville Leadership Foundation (KLF) is requesting funds to conduct research on models that will effectively address mental health and substance abuse issues in youth and young adults within workforce development systems.