Youth FAQs

Frequently Asked questions from youth, for youth. A shorter version of the YOUTH FAQ is available as a one page flyer (pdf) you can download. Thanks to our partners at Youth M.O.V.E. for input on the FAQ!

If you are new to the mental health system and would like more information on how to get started, read the How Do I Get Help? guide. You will find information about: 

  • Deciding if you need a mental health assessment
  • Finding out what kind of insurance you have
  • Making an appointment with a provider
  • Taking charge of your care

There are three main changes happening in the children's mental health program in Idaho. These changes are:

  • Improved access to services (multiple ways to start services, more access to Medicaid, better information about services offered)
  • Improved choices of services (new services and supports available, more providers training to provide services)
  • Improved quality of services (strengths-based, family-based, community-based).

Youth Empowerment Services (YES) is a program (also called a *System of Care) that helps children and youth under the age of 18 who are identified as having serious emotional disturbance (SED). You can find the definition of SED below.

The goal of YES is to give children and youth who have SED access to the services and supports that will help them improve their mental health.

*The YES system of care is a spectrum of services and supports for children and youth with serious emotional disturbance and their families. The YES system of care creates meaningful partnerships between families, youth, providers, and government agencies to address the specific needs of the youth and family to help them function better at home, in school, in the community and throughout life.

Serious emotional disturbance (SED) is a legal term that is defined in Idaho Code, 16-2403(13) and refers to children and youth under age 18 who have a mental, behavioral, or emotional issue that limits their ability to participate in family, school, or community activities.

A person is identified as having SED if they have both a Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) diagnosis and a functional impairment as identified by the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) tool.

To qualify for Youth Empowerment Services (YES), a person under the age of 18 must have serious emotional disturbance (SED). To determine if you qualify for YES, you can start by:

  • Talking to your current mental health provider
  • Contacting your local Children's Mental Health Office
  • Calling Liberty Healthcare at 1-877-305-3469 to schedule an appointment

Not everyone who has a mental health concern has serious emotional disturbance (SED), but other types of mental health issues also benefit from treatment. The State Department of Education has created a mental health checklist for youth. After using the checklist, take a look at your answers. If you answered yes to any of the statements, then you may benefit from a full mental health assessment. Get the Youth Mental Health Checklist (pdf file to print out)

Completing a mental health assessment will help you decide if mental health care could help you.

If you are comfortable, ask your parents or guardians to help you contact someone who can do the assessment. If you are not comfortable talking to your parents, you can talk to another responsible adult such as a friend's parent, a teacher, school nurse, guidance counselor, a doctor, or a leader at your church. If they have questions about the process or Youth Empowerment Services (YES), show them this website.

If you or your parents need help locating a mental health care professional for an assessment, please contact your local Children's Mental Health office, Optum Idaho at 855-202-0973 (if you are currently eligible or are enrolled in Medicaid), or your private insurance company for local resources.

If you or your parents/guardians need help with these steps, read the How Do I Get Help guide.

The Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) is a tool that looks at different areas of your life, such as:

  • Your past experiences
  • Individual strengths
  • Social and family interactions
  • Your emotional needs
  • Your activities

The CANS will identify areas where you show strength and areas where you need support. You can then use this information to create a plan to improve your mental health.

One benefit of using the CANS to create your plan is that it gives everyone a common language when talking about your care. This means that everyone involved in helping you will know what goals you are working on and what strengths you have to help you along the way. Youth Empowerment Services (YES) is based on a youth-involved team approach to planning, so this common language with common goals will help you design a plan that works for you.


If you need to speak to someone about your mental health you have a few options. If you are looking for a counselor or other mental health care provider you can:

Some services require a parent or guardian to be involved, while others do not. The CMH office and/or your insurance company should be able to give you more details.

If you are having a mental health emergency, or you think you are in danger, please contact 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency room. 

If you are considering suicide, or just need to talk to someone, please call (24 hours a day, 365 days a year) or text (3 pm - midnight, Monday - Friday) the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 208-398-4357 (HELP). You can call or text even if you are not considering suicide, but just need to talk to someone about how you feel. If you currently have Medicaid you can also call Optum Idaho at 855-202-0973 and speak to someone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

If your family does not know about Youth Empowerment Services (YES), you can have them read the YES 101 brochure on the Resources and Training page. You can also have them look at the parent section of this website to find more information.

A big part of Youth Empowerment Services (YES) is the child and Family Team (CFT), which is a new treatment planning method that some providers stated offering in the summer of 2018.

If your provider offers CFT planning, you and your family can create a CFT that helps you design a plan to improve your mental health. Members of a CFT include (at a minimum) you, your family, and your mental health providers. You can also choose to include other people who support you, such as extended family, neighbors,friends, coaches, and other community members such as faith-based leaders, tribal members, and teachers.

As you work together to develop your plan, your family can help you identify goals and support you as you work toward them.

If you have family or friends who may benefit from Youth Empowerment Services (YES), you can share this website, give them the YES 101 brochure (download it here), talk to them about finding a mental health provider or have them read the How Do I Get Help guide. You can also be supportive of their mental health goals and join their Child and Family TEAM (CFT) if they ask you to.

If you are worried about the safety of a friend or family member who may struggle with mental health concerns, you have a few options.

> The Suicide Prevention Action Network Idaho (SPAN) has a flyer with information about getting help for a friend.

> You can call (24 hours a day, 365 days a year) or text (3 pm - midnight, Monday - Friday) the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 208-398-HELP (4357).

> You can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) and speak to someone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
> If you have Medicaid, you can call Optum Idaho at 855-202-0973 ad speak to someone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Start by talking to a responsible adult who is concerned about you and can help. This might be a family member, a friend's parent, a teacher, school nurse, guidance counselor, a doctor, or a leader in your church. If you have a mental health provider, you can make an appointment to talk about your needs.

If you do not have anyone you are comfortable talking to, you have a few options:

*Both these numbers can help you find someone to talk to in your area. 

You do not need to be considering suicide to call any of these resources.

That is a hard question to answer because everyone has a different story. 

What we do know is that having a diagnosis and the results from a Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) assessment can give you valuable information about yourself. Knowing what your strengths are can help you focus on what works for you. Knowing what your needs are can help you find supports. Having a diagnosis can help your doctor understand your medical needs. Together, those things can help you.

If you don't meet the criteria for Youth Empowerment Services (YES), you will still be able to get mental health care. There are mental health providers all over the state that can help you.

If you don't already have a mental health provider, you can: