For Rutgers, addressing the youth mental health crisis—now exacerbated by the pandemic—is a top priority. Enter the Youth Behavioral Health Initiative, which provides innovative and equitable services to vulnerable young people across the state. And not a moment too soon.

One morning in May 2022, Devin* (her name and others in this article have been changed to ensure privacy), a journalist who covers health care, noticed that her 15-year-old son, Ajay*, was acting oddly. “He came out of his room, staggering,” she says. When asked, her son confessed to taking a dangerously large dose of cough medicine to get high. “He’d been experiencing anxiety and depression, but I had found him a therapist and a psychiatrist,” she says. “I thought I was doing everything right.” She called an ambulance, and as it arrived, she could clearly see that her son was intoxicated. “He was laughing, and the EMTs said his heart was racing,” recalls Devin. At the ER, the attending physician told her that Ajay was in the 99th percentile of the most depressed kids he’d seen and recommended that her son be admitted to the hospital. “Leaving him there was heartbreaking.” To read the full story.