Something exciting is happening in New London.
Young adults who might otherwise have slipped through the cracks are getting the help they need, thanks to the AXS Center, now in its second year at Sound Community Services. Created by the agency in partnership with Connecticut’s Department of Mental Health to offer New London’s young adults aged 18-25 with a safe place to learn, grow and succeed, the program began with a client list of 18 and now serves over 200.
AXS is one of three community access centers created in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy to address the lack of resources for supporting young adults as they face stressors in their lives, connect safely with their communities, and realize their full potential as they mature into adulthood.
The Eastern Regional Mental Health Board had the pleasure of visiting AXS last week to review the program, and left completely bowled over with admiration for the program, its staff, and the people they serve.
Unlike traditional Young Adult Services programs, says director Jason Hyatt, the AXS Center casts a huge net into the community to find its clients. The program’s outreach coordinator finds young adults where they live, socialize, and play: in churches, neighborhoods, and even on the basketball courts, in order to engage them. Simple word-of-mouth brings in countless others.
Program staff noted that it makes perfect sense to have one of the first access centers in New London; where young adults are confronted with the same issues as in Hartford, New Haven or Bridgeport on a per capita basis: gang violence, drugs, drop-outs, homelessness, unemployment, single parenting, and more. In New London, they pointed out, “you either go to college, go into the military, or get a job at EB. After that there isn’t much left.” Young people who lack options can lose hope for the future, and fall in with the wrong crowds.
The AXS Center may be small, but its staff have big plans for its growth, and they may well be trailblazers for our region. What’s so special about this program?
Jason concluded the visit with this thought: “When AXS started, it was not just to change people or families, but to change a culture, the culture of youth in New London. This doesn’t happen overnight. It’s probably a 10-year process.
The Eastern Regional Mental Health Board intends to devote the coming year to learning about the needs of young adults throughout our region, and will be conducting intensive outreach to communities in Eastern Connecticut. We will use what we learn to make a set of recommendations to our state’s policy makers. If you care about young adults, or have some ideas you’d like to share, please contact me at 860-886-0030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.