Every developmental age comes with its own challenges. For individuals experiencing mental illness and/or substance use disorders or individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, these challenges may be greater during the transition to adulthood as services and supports change or become difficult to access.

In 2009, ta North Carolina Institute of Medicine Task Force Transitions for People with Developmental Disabilities issued a report, Successful Transitions for People with Developmental Disabilities outlining the challenges and issuing a set of recommendations. While this report specifically addressed transitions for individuals with developmental disabilities, many of the barriers and solutions are similar.

To provide an idea of how many individuals may be affected in North Carolina, a quick look at the statistics is helpful. About 23.2% or 2,284,750 individuals were under the age of 18 in 2013 . Using recent data, the following statistics can be estimated for the State:

  • • 456,950 teens with a serious mental disorder between the ages of 13-18 (The National Alliance on Mental Illness used an estimate received from the National Institute of Mental Health in 2013 that 20% of adolescents between the ages of 13-18 experience serious mental disorders in a given year – source
  • • 91,390 adolescents needed but did not receive treatment for alcohol use (In 2011, the US Department of Health and Human Services used an estimate from the NC Youth Risk Behavior Survey that 4% of teens needed but did not receive treatment for alcohol use from 1991 to 2011 – source
  • • 91,390 adolescents needed but did not receive treatment for illicit drug use (In 2011, the US Department of Health and Human Services used an estimate from the NC Youth Risk Behavior Survey that 4% of teens needed but did not receive treatment for illicit drug use from 1991 to 2011 – source
  • • 316,895 children between the ages of 3 and 17 with any developmental disability between the years 1997 and 2008 (The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 13.87% of children between the ages of 3 and 17 experience a developmental disability based on data between the years 1997 and 2008 – source

Both the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have promoted the value of early identification and early intervention. SAMHSA discussed the importance of early identification and early intervention of youth experiencing mental illness and/or substance use disorders in a recent issue of The CBHSQ Report. The CDC has also developed resources to encourage early identification and early intervention of developmental disabilities – CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” Program, Developmental Disabilities Increasing in US, and Developmental Disabilities Research.