Our History

In 1999 the New York State Youth Advisory Council to the Office of Mental Health (OMH) was formed to advise the Commissioner and the Bureau of Children and Families. Adult peers coordinated the council. Through our work at the state level we were able to work on the restraint and seclusion regulations, transition, suicide prevention work and give perspective on the way services were rolled out. YP! continues to do a lot of the work we started during the days of the OMH YAC.

In 2002 the OMH Youth Advisory Council sent a letter to Families Together in NYS requesting that they increase youth involvement. The letter requested:

  • At least 2 young people be appointed to the board of directors
  • Youth-run, youth sponsored workshops at annual and local conferences and trainings
  • Funding and support for peer advocacy trainings for youth
  • Promotion of youth involvement through Families Together newsletter and website
  • Hiring youth who have received or are reciving mental health services as staff for Families Together
  • A call from Families Together to its members to recognize the value of youth involvement

FTNYS embraced the youth movement and together we fulfilled all of the above requests.  Below is a timeline of YP!’s growth.


  • Stephanie Orlando was hired as the Statewide Youth Coordinator of Families Together in NYS. This was possible through funding by the NYS Office of Mental Health.


  • Held the first Peer Led Youth Track at the Families Together Annual Conference


  • Christina Felix became the first Youth Representative on the Families Together Board of Directors
  • We took on the name YOUTH POWER! (YP!)
  • A second statewide employee position was added
  • We developed a training curriculum
  • The YP! Advisory Board was developed


  • YP! becomes a cross-disability network and becomes a State Partner of the National Youth Leadership Network (NYLN)
  • Families Together has three youth members on the Board of Directors (positions listed in the bylaws)
  • Developed our first Youth Policy Agenda
  • Contributed to the development of the Children’s Plan


  • Received funding from the Office of Mental Health to hire five full-time Regional Youth Partners
  • Recieved funding from the U.S. Department of Justice to implement the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) in Albany County
  • YP!’s Third Annual Statewide Youth Leadership Forum was held in Albany


  • Developed the Citywide Oversight Committee Youth Advisory Committee
  • YP! Board began working on YP! becoming independent


  • Applied and was awarded a five year grant from the Office of Mental Health


  • Began contracting with OASAS to assist them in increasing youth voice
  • Began working on New York State Success
  • Worked with Rensselar county to establish a youth advisory council named VOYA – Voices of Youth Advisers


  • Began contracting with the New York State Department of Labor
  • Began contracting with Rensselaer County to operate VOYA
  • Held the Kickin’ It Tour to collect youth input for OASAS