Youth Homelessness – A Community Issue with A Community Solution

By: Cindy Parsons, Executive Director 
St. Croix Family Resource Center

Generous funding from a Rotary International grant as well as grants from several local Rotary clubs made it possible for St. Croix Family Resource Center (FRC) to complete a Runaway and Homeless Youth Study/Action Plan.  The results from the study was shared with the public on June 11th.  The study is now available at

Youth homelessness is definitely a problem in Washington County.  It’s a community issue and needs a community solution. 

We do not need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to serving our youth with unstable housing.  We need to commit to collaboration and sharing what we learn along the way.  There are many ways to help and many different roles.  Youth voices were heard in the study and will continue to be vital as steps to move forward as the recommended action plan unfolds.  Joan Countryman, former program director of Bridge for Youth completed the study for the FRC and is now employed by FRC as the Youth Connections Coordinator.  Joan will work to coordinate existing and new services for youth with unstable housing. 

Youth Connections Drop-In Center is the most recent new service that will be offered for youth with unstable housing.  St. Croix Family Resource Center is partnering with St. Paul Lutheran Church in Stillwater to open a drop-in center this September!  Other faith communities and non-profit agencies including Youth Service Bureau will collaborate with the FRC to provide needed services for our youth at the center.  An Open House is scheduled for September 6th at 2:30 with a tour at 3 p.m. 

The location is St. Paul Lutheran Church, 609 5th Street S., Stillwater.  The drop-in center will open for youth the following Thursday on September 13th.  Training for volunteers interested in working with youth at the drop-in center will be offered the first and last weeks in August.  The six-hour training sessions will be August 6th and 8th from 6-9 p.m. and August 27th and 29th from 6-9 p.m. 

Please call Joan at 612-475-4055 to register and for more information about the Youth Connections Program.

Washington, Ramsey county schools to boost mental health help for preteens

Grants will bring therapists to two school districts

to try to head off mental health troubles.

By: Mara Klecker, Star Tribune

Schools in Washington County and parts of Ramsey County are intensifying efforts to help preteens struggling with stress and anxiety, which can lead to more serious mental health problems if not treated.

“We want to try to head this off before it becomes a real problem,” said Bob Sherman, executive director of Youth Service Bureau, an organization that helps youth and families be more successful at home and in school.

Two new grants will bring therapists into middle schools in those two east metro counties.

Last week, Youth Service Bureau was awarded $50,000 from the Andeavor Foundation for an initiative to create safer schools. The funds will be split between the South Washington School District and the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District. Sherman said plans are in the works to bring a therapist into the schools once a week in addition to offering educational opportunities for parents to learn to recognize signs of mental illness.

The organization has also received $5,500 from the United Way of Washington County East to provide a mental health classroom presentation for all sixth- and seventh-grade students at Stillwater’s Oak-Land Middle School this coming school year. Youth Service Bureau plans to conduct about 30 of the presentations, which will focus on teaching prevention and coping strategies for stress, anxiety and depression.

“We are finding a lot of middle-school kids who are so stressed out … by the time they get to middle school, they feel they can’t handle everything in life,” Sherman said. Youth Service Bureau is applying for additional funding to expand its presence in the schools in Washington and eastern Ramsey counties.

Across the country, children and teens are reporting more anxiety and depression. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 31.9 percent of teens are diagnosed with some type of anxiety disorder.

That means schools are increasingly becoming the front lines in identifying students struggling with mental health problems and steering them toward help.

“You can’t help but see what’s happening around the country in schools,” Sherman said, referring to school shootings and school violence. “We decided to be much more proactive in all of this work. We want to reach kids before issues get out of control.”

By high school, some students may have been battling mental illness for years, Sherman said. Adding educational resources and access to a therapist may also help guide students away from self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, something that Youth Service Bureau chemical health specialists are seeing in middle and high schools.

The Washington County community has been receptive to and supportive of mental health education initiatives, said Jessica Ryan, executive director of the United Way of Washington County East.

For the 40 volunteers who chose what programs would receive United Way funding in the last round of applications, supporting these resources for middle schoolers was an easy choice, Ryan said.

“I think we all understand how important that mental health awareness is,” she said.

YSB Benefits from Werner Electric Golf Tournament

Werner Electric is one of YSB’s newest partners, and we thrilled! 

On July 21, 2018 at Stonebridge Golf Course, Werner hosted their Charity Golf Outing benefiting YSB – raising $8,130!
Support like this helps YSB provide services to all those that need them, regardless of their ability to pay.

Werner and YSB are working on a Partnership Path that will include education and support for the communities that they serve, and the employees and their families of Werner Electric.

Thanks Werner Electric and we look forward to a long and meaningful partnership!
In photo, left to right: Merri Guggisberg, YSB Youth and Family Education Coordinator, Bob Sherman, YSB Executive Director, Cynthia Bennett, Werner Electric Strategic Marketing Manager, Andree Aronson, YSB Development Director.

Joe Slavin Memorial Golf Tournament benefits YSB and increases Mental Health Services in area schools!

Joe Slavin was the principle at Skyview Middle School in Woodbury, Minnesota.

Joe died by suicide June 7, 2017; his family and friends wanted to do something powerful to raise awareness about mental health and the need to talk openly about mental health concerns.  

Picture: Darcy Hagar-Slavin, Kevin Wolff (Principal – Maplewood Middle School), and Travis Barringer (Principal – Skyview Elementary).

All proceeds from this event ​were donated to YSB and Canvas Health, mental health service providers that directly impact the schools in ISDs 833 and 622, school districts that were dear to Joe’s heart, family, and friends.  

At the golf tournament, Darcy Slavin said,

We are here today to raise awareness for the need for mental health in our community and to break down the stigma related with mental illness.   A mental health condition is a medical illness, just like a physical condition. If you break your leg, you do not hesitate to seek treatment.

The same is true with mental illness. We are hoping to provide increased mental health services in the school districts that Joe served in order to decrease suicide risk, depression, and anxiety.  In order to manage your mental health you have to recognize it, name it and seek help.  You have to give up control in order to truly control it. This is what we need to teach others to do.”

We are grateful for the Slavin family and friends for reaching out and choosing YSB as a beneficiary of their event. 

The funds raised will provide mental health education to students, staff, and families in the ISD 622 and 833 communities.

The Reason for Curfew

By: Shelby Bailey, YSB Diversion Staff

Summer has finally arrived, and everyone is able to enjoy the beautiful weather here in Minnesota. With the sun giving us extra time in our day, we have the opportunity to stay out longer but still need to remember the curfew requirements for youth in our community.

Local police departments report an increase in juvenile concerns after curfew hours.

If juveniles are out past curfew they are more likely to be committing crimes or being victims of crimes. Curfew is put into place to provide safety for the youth in our community and help reduce crime.

Your individual township may have it’s own guidelines. You can check them here. Unless otherwise noted, listed below are the curfew times for youth across Washington County:

Under 12:

  • 9:00pm-5:00am Sunday-Thursday
  • 10:00pm-5:00am Friday-Saturday


  • 11:00pm-5:00am Everyday


  • 11:00pm-5:00am Sunday-Thursday
  • 12:00am-5:00am Friday-Saturday

Any Exceptions?

There are some exceptions given the circumstances of the situation. Examples such as being with a responsible adult, going or returning from work, an emergency, attending a supervised event in the community, or had written permission from a parent.

What if my child doesn’t follow the curfew?

Your child may receive a citation from local Police if they are out during prohibited times.

The Youth Service Bureau offers services for youth and families when a child may not be abiding the curfew times, or may be struggling with other concerning behaviors.  Contact one of our 3 offices to find out more.

We hope you encourage your children to make safe choices and enforce the curfew in our community.

Have a safe and fun summer!

Key Tips for Safer Driving

By: Shelby Bailey, YSB Diversion Specialist and
Gina Johnson, YSB Chemical Health Prevention Specialist


Whether digging for your phone that fell between the seats, changing the radio station, or eating breakfast on your way to work, at some point in time, almost all of us have been guilty for distracted driving.

“Distracted driving” includes: anytime your mind and eyes are not on the road.

According to TeenSafe, 25% of motor vehicle crash fatalities are due to distracted driving and is responsible for 58% of crashes involving teens.  TeenSafe also reports that teens ages 16-19 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash than any other age group.  

With teens being at such a high risk while driving, it’s important to understand what it is they are distracted by and how we can encourage them to make the pledge to drive safe:

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A Substance Free Summer: tips for helping your teens

By: Ashely Rome, B.A., LADC
YSB Chemical Health Specialist, District #622

Summertime and the end of school often bring excitement, freedom, sun, and adventure. With freedom, often comes less adult supervision.  While youth should be encouraged to have fun during school break, summertime can also mean an increased likelihood of exposure to the dangers of substance abuse.

Multiple studies show that on an average summer day, about 11,000 youth will take their first drink of alcohol and 4,500 will smoke cigarettes for the first time. This is in large part due to less structure, as well as substances being readily available to youth at home.  Alcohol, as well as prescription medications are easily used by teens when they are not locked up or monitored.

With the beginning of summer upon us, now is the perfect time to speak with your youth about the negative effects of alcohol and drug use.  While it’s not possible to be with your teen at all times, you can help them by providing them with education and tools to make positive decisions:

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13 Reasons Why, Season 2 – now on Netflix

By: Rochelle Kruszka, M.A., LMFT
YSB Youth-Focused Family Therapist

13 Reasons Why, the controversial Netflix series, released its second
season on Friday, May 18, 2018. This series continues to focus on suicide, sexual assault, and bullying as shown in season one. Season two builds on these topics and also includes other difficult subjects like substance use/abuse and gun violence. If you haven’t seen it, be sure to check out YSB’s Parent Guide to season one.

Why should parents be concerned?

According to a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, following season one, internet searches related to suicide increased about 19% above expectation in the 19 days following the release of the series. More specifically, there was a 26% increase in searches for “how to commit suicide.” While this does not mean that there was an actual increase in attempts, research trends have been shown to be correlated with actual suicides or attempts.

Netflix has attempted to respond to the criticisms from parents and mental health professionals by taking a number of steps this season. Before watching the series, there is an introduction by a few of the actors playing characters in the show. The actors encourage viewers to consider whether they struggle with some of these issues, and if so, “this series may not be right for you.” Following each episode, during the credits, there is a voiceover encouraging anyone who may need it to find resources at their website: The website lists resources for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) and the Crisis Text Line (741741). There are also weblinks for online resources for various topics including suicide prevention, gun violence, bullying, and substance use.

The creators of the show have stated that one of the main goals of the show is to “start a conversation” about some of these topics. The way that some of these topics are introduced or addressed on the show makes it difficult to believe that this is really their goal due to the gratuitous nature of how these topics are depicted. Many times, the series shows exactly what NOT to do.

Netflix has put out a discussion guide for use when watching the series, which can help to guide the conversations that parents are having with their kids. However, most of the middle and high school students that I see do not watch the show with their parents. In fact, many of the parents have no idea their child is watching this show or what it is.

What to watch out for in season two:

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Mental Health and Substance Use = Chicken or the Egg?

By: Julia Geigle, M.S.W., LICSW
YSB Chemical Health Program Supervisor, Specialist D834

Mental Health Disorders (MD) and Substance Use Disorders (SUD)…   

  • are real
  • are public health conditions
  • affect anyone: regardless of age, race, IQ, religion, income
  • can often overlap

Unfortunately, there continues to be stigma and misunderstanding about these disorders. May is Mental Health Awareness Month so it is a great time to educate ourselves and work to eliminate the discrimination that exists around it.

When it comes to mental health and substance use issues, for instance, it is quite common for a person to be battling both of these challenges at the same time.

About 80% of adolescents who are abusing substances also show symptoms of mental health disorders, such as Depression or Anxiety.

AND: approximately 80% of adolescents who struggle with a mental health disorder have turned to substance use as a way to manage their emotional pain.

So, what does this tell us?  That youth don’t typically abuse substances, or frequently get intoxicated, because their life is going ‘great.’

At YSB, our Youth-Focused Therapists and School-Based Chemical Health Specialists know that the best way to help someone who is struggling to make healthy choices – is to explore factors that may be contributing to, or hindering, that person’s overall well-being.

Sometimes the mental disorder comes first and leads to substance abuse, and other times, the substance use disorder comes first, leading to emotional and mental health problems.

It’s the ‘Chicken or the Egg’ conundrum.

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National Prevention Week – May 13-19th

National Prevention Week in May

By Julia Geigle, Chemical Health Specialist, MSW, LICSW

With all the best intentions, our society tends to be more reactive than proactive in many areas – including behavioral health which encompasses both mental AND substance use disorders. More funding is dedicated to intervention and treatment than it is to health promotion and prevention. Research has shown us all services along the continuum of care prevention and early intervention to treatment and maintenance are equally important.

To highlight the importance of prevention, May 13-19 marks SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week. This week is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of substance use prevention and positive mental health.

What is prevention?

Prevention focuses on strategies, efforts, and interventions that occur prior to the onset of a mental and/or substance use disorder and which are intended to prevent the occurrence of the disorder or reduce risk for the disorder.

Prevention is also about striving to optimize well-being. Prevention is not just about eliminating a negative behavior; it is also about supporting positive physical, intellectual, psychological and social development – infusing wellness into our community.

How do we do it?

Effective prevention is about identifying and minimizing the factors that increase the risk of developing a mental and/or substance use disorder (risk factors) and building and strengthening the factors that protect us from developing a mental and/or substance use disorder (protective factors).

We know now that prevention works best when we address the constellation of risk and protective factors across all contexts from the individual up to the societal level.


YSB is passionate about prevention and early intervention! One way YSB supports the strengthening of protective factors is by encouraging parents to familiarize themselves with the Search Institute’s 40 Development Assets  and work to build them into their children and family culture. Check out YSB’s other prevention and early-intervention services!