Chad’s Legacy Project Advancing Mental Health Education and Access to Care in Washington State

Health & Safety | healthcare | mental health | public schools | Washington State Law

By Melissa D. Carter

September 5, 2018

Enabling access to health care and pursuing justice is at the core of what we do.  When I had the opportunity to join the Board of Directors for Chad’s Legacy Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a more effective pathway in the treatment of mental health, I jumped at the chance.

Chad’s Legacy Project was created by Todd and Laura Crooks shortly after the loss of their oldest son, Chad. Chad battled against Schizophrenia and, at 21 years old, lost his battle with the disease. Chad died by suicide on January 21st, 2016.  The Chad’s Legacy Project mission is to create an environment through education that eliminates the stigma around mental illness; boost the effectiveness of current treatment pathways through the advent of proactive care coordination and management; aid in the efforts of psychiatric research and innovation; and identify existing limited pockets of excellence and elevate them into broader systems of excellence.

This year, Chad’s Legacy Project was instrumental in advancing these important efforts around mental health.  One huge leap forward was made with the help of CLP regarding mandated mental health literacy standards in Washington State public high schools.  Before this year, the state’s health literacy standards for high schools focused on reproductive health, drug and alcohol use, and driver safety.  The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction recommended adding mental health literacy standards, but before this year, no mandate was in place.  Through partnerships with key players in the health care, education and legislative community, Chad’s Legacy Project supported a mandated mental health curriculum for all public high schools.  In March of this year, House Bill 2779 was signed into law, which establishes educational service pilot districts for school mental health services and mental health literacy standards for two pilot schools in Washington State.

Another major milestone that occurred this year involved sponsoring broad implementation of mental health first aid training in King County, with the goal to expand the program to all counties in the state.  The training aims to create awareness and availability of mental health care, at the same level as CPR training, and provide easy access to peer and family support to help an individual in crisis.  Chad’s Legacy Project has partnered with Evergreen Hospital and Seattle Children’s Hospital in these efforts, and is proud to see these hospitals become the very first of their kind in Washington State to offer mental health first aid to the general public as a free resource.

As an advocate for many people who struggle with mental illness, including major depression following a catastrophic injury, and as a mother raising three kids in Seattle Public Schools, I am immensely proud to be a part of this work.

Later this month, on September 22, 2018, Chad’s Legacy Project will hold their third annual Gala, “Unmask the Night,” to raise funds to support these efforts in the fight against mental illness. The Project encourages anyone who cares about this important cause to attend.