Education | Employment

Meeting the Mental Health Needs of NC Opportunity Youth

A Partnership Success Story

by Abigail Holdsclaw, ncIMPACT Research Associate

November 1, 2023

Many of the “Our State, Our Work: Connecting Young Adults to Their Future (OSOW)” community collaborative teams raised access to mental healthcare as a barrier to reconnecting young adults to school and work. Drawing on their experiences working directly with Opportunity Youth (young adults ages 16-24 who are not working or in school) across the state, the OSOW teams made clear: for many of these young adults, mental health and wellbeing must be prioritized before and during undertaking the tasks of reconnecting them to pathways for living-wage jobs.

Not having access to healthcare is not an isolated barrier.

Opportunity Youth are more likely than their peers to:

  • Be uninsured.

  • Face barriers accessing transportation to care.

  • Have limited options for accessing telehealth due to connectivity and hardware access.

In response to the teams’ calls to address the mental health needs of Opportunity Youth in their communities, Carolina Across 100 embarked on a creative multi-step approach, relying on the generosity of our internal and external partners to form a patchwork of support for young adults across the state.

Potential Impact

As a result of these collaborations, nearly 100 NC Opportunity Youth who otherwise would not have been able to access care are connected to essential mental healthcare. These youth are empowered to continue working to achieve their personal and professional goals.



Because Opportunity Youth are more likely than their peers to face barriers accessing reliable internet, they may not be able to take advantage of digital care options.

Response: AT&T generously gifted hotspots to the teams so that youth can attend their telehealth appointments, even if they do not live in an area with reliable internet access.


Hardware Access

Response: The Carolina Across 100 team connected the OSOW community teams with HUBZone Technology Initiative (HTI). HTI mission is to convert donated laptops into Google Chromebooks and distribute them to individuals and community organizations to meet their professional goals. We are thankful that HTI understood that for Opportunity Youth, these laptops would be important not only for completing schoolwork or looking for a job, but also to access mental healthcare.

Curious about how you can also support the great work of HTI? Click here!


Digital Mental Health Services

Opportunity Youth often do not have health insurance, and online therapeutic options can be cost-prohibitive for an individual who is not currently working.

Response: Providing teams with information on available services and leveraging program funding to compensate virtual mental health care.

A special thanks to our partners at the UNC Suicide Prevention Institute for providing these insights and guidance on assessing the quality of platforms. Funding provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina allowed the Carolina Across 100 team to provide compensation for mental healthcare service chosen by the teams.  The UNC Suicide Prevention Institute, with coordination from the Carolina Across 100 team, provided insights on the pros, cons, relevance, and cost of various online therapy platforms and applications to the OSOW teams.

The teams were not limited to the platforms assessed. To the contrary, they were encouraged to explore other platforms and choose the ones that would work best for the Opportunity Youth in their community. As always, community members best know their needs and OSOW seeks to facilitate, but not intercept, decision making.

And, so it begins

Carolina Across 100’s deep involvement with the community collaborative teams ends in December 2023.

Funding for services accessed by young adults will be available until May 2024, allowing for the continued support of these young adults’ pursuit of their mental well-being.

Thank you again to our dedicated community teams for supporting these young people, and to our partners whose shared commitment to supporting North Carolina Opportunity Youth made this possible!

Want to find out how you fit into this work? Join us for North Carolina’s first statewide summit on Opportunity Youth. Visit our event page to learn more.

Carolina Across 100 is a five-year initiative charged by Chancellor Guskiewicz and housed at the School of Government’s ncIMPACT Initiative. This pan-University effort, guided by the Carolina Engagement Council, will form meaningful partnerships with communities in all 100 North Carolina counties to respond to challenges stemming from or exacerbated by COVID-19.