TAY Space Rises to the Challenge
The Covid-19 pandemic has required increased isolation – a challenge for us all, but for youth struggling with mental health, it can be truly harmful and dangerous. 
Side by Side’s TAY Space helps vulnerable, transitional age youth (TAY) ages 16-25 who struggle with severe mental and/or emotional disorders. Right now, the youth need personal connection more than ever, and TAY Space is rising to the challenge.  
“While our county contract provides for wraparound case management services for 24 youth – we are serving 31 right now, and haven’t discharged anyone. We do whatever it takes to keep each youth out of the hospital, out of jail, and out of homelessness, while giving them the foothold they need to grow and thrive,” says program director Laura Taylor. 

Local guidelines dictate that clients can only be seen face-to-face if it’s clinically indicated. “But with our youth, it’s almost always clinically indicated,” says Taylor. Staff must see youth in person to look for potential warning signs, like weight gain/loss, irritability, or lack of personal hygiene. Case managers meet with clients every week, and staff psychiatrists Dr. Catherine Kennedy and Dr. Andrea Hedin provide therapeutic support and medication management. 
But TAY Space is doing more than case management and therapy. “We all feel a responsibility to make sure that we were doing every single thing we possibly can to support, see, and hear our youth during this time,” says Taylor.

Although the program normally operates Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, right now, staff members are taking calls and connecting with youth 24/7.
“I am always talking or texting with our clients,” says peer advocate Dario Ellington. “They need to stay connected and we are here for them.” Ellington explains that many youth aren't always up for Zoom sessions. “It can feel overwhelming and intrusive sometimes,” Ellington explains. 

So TAY Space goes to them. Each week, Ellington delivers meals, masks (made by former SBS board member Jacquie Spielberg), and Target gift cards for basic necessities like diapers or hygiene supplies. Working with Extra FoodCake4Kids, RePlate, and the SF Marin Food Bank, he also brings milk, eggs, vegetables, birthday treats, and other groceries to about 15 youth. Ellington says he enjoys his delivery days, as he can sense what a difference these visits make and takes plenty of time to linger and chat.  

As one TAY Space youth commented, "When Dario comes with meals and goodies, it lights up my day...we have inside jokes and he makes me laugh. And of course, the food is delicious!”
And it’s working for others as well. According to Taylor, “Every single one of our youth is connected and engaged right now.“ At each visit, Ellington reminds the youth, “we are all going to get through this together, and we will be together in person again soon.”  
That’s a good reminder for all of us. We will get through this...together.