About CAYEN (pronounced like cayenne pepper!)

We have an all-TAY statewide Board which is involved in both statewide and local program and policy decisions.

Mission: To empower Transitional Age Youth (TAY) to be leaders in community and behavioral health system transformation and to create positive change through the promotion of culturally appropriate supports, services and approaches that improve and maintain the behavioral health of California’s TAY.

Vision: We envision a community in which Transition Age Youth in need of behavioral health services have access to resources and supports so they can lead self-fulling lives and be contributing members of society.

Who we are:

CAYEN represents a TAY Board from across the state of California. These are youth and young adults ages 16-25 who have been touched by the mental health, juvenile justice, or foster care systems. These three groups of young people have many cross-cutting issues, so while CAYEN focuses on mental health policy we work with our partners to bridge the gaps between the three systems.

What we do:

CAYEN influences policy by engaging our all TAY Board, Adult Advisory Committee and other people from across the state that care about behavioral health for youth and young adults. With input from these important voices we advocate, engage in policy discussions, and participate in state level committees to ensure that the youth voice and youth needs are included in all policy decisions around behavioral health services for TAY.

Our TAY Board holds regular phone calls and meetings to discuss relevant policy topics and projects as they relate to behavioral health for youth and young adults. We also empower and train youth to advocate in their local communities. Our Board Members are also actively involved in their local communities, through working in behavioral health agencies, engaging in their county stakeholder process, and chairing TAY behavioral health policy groups.

Our staff travels the state to participate in local conversations about how counties are engaging TAY in policy and program decisions, meet the people developing new and exciting ideas, and to share promising practices. We work to promote cross-county, cross-agency, and intergenerational learning with the goal of working together to create the best policies, programs, and practices for TAY across the state.

Why we do it:

Historically, services in California were designed for either children or adults. However, the behavioral health community has recognized that there is an important time in life where people are transitioning from being a child, into being an adult, and that youth need services designed around this life transition. We have also learned that to create the best programs and policies, we have to ask the people who will be impacted by them. CAYEN works to bring the voice of youth and young adults who are impacted by the behavioral health system into policy and program design at the state level.

Our history:

CAYEN is a project of Mental Health America of California (MHAC). In 2006, MHAC realized there was not an advocacy organization exclusively focusing on TAY behavioral health policy at the state level. Because this is such an important and unique population, MHAC was given funding by the Department of Mental Health to create CAYEN to ensure TAY voices and perspectives were taken into account when developing policies and programs.

CAYEN Brochure