By Candy Williams

As a mom, Marnie is always looking for new ways to help her boys.

Ryan and Logan’s mom regularly attends the annual Mental Health Conference.

With two sons – ages 9 and 12 – with special needs, she finds Allegheny Family Network’s annual Mental Health Conference to be a valuable resource. The event is a time-saving, one-stop resource for parents looking for help. In one day, families can access more information and assistance at the free conference than they could by spending weeks online or making phone calls.

“Typically, when I attend the conference, I’m mostly interested in getting more information and educated about IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) because that’s where I struggle the most with my boys,” Marnie says. “At this year’s conference, I will be looking into that same area along with additional schooling options and services for my children that may be available that my family has not tried yet.”

The ninth annual conference – themed Parents Moving Forward Together: Navigating the Child Serving Systems – will be held May 10 at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center, Downtown. To help out parents, the event will provide them with free childcare, lunch and limited transportation (registration required at 412-246-2030).

Presented in partnership with State Rep. Dan Miller, the conference brings together about 40 community resource organizations and behavioral health agencies to help families of kids with mental health concerns by providing information and networking at a resource fair.

The event will focus on addressing the need for family voices in the Child Serving Systems and helping to empower parents to find their voices in a positive way, says Ruth Fox, CEO of Allegheny Family Network.

“The workshops are designed to help educate parents on their children’s diagnosis or on trauma-related concerns and to give them leadership and advocacy skills that will support them in getting their needs met,” she says.

Workshop sessions include:

  • Building Leadership Qualities,
  • Dissecting the IEP,
  • Connecting Trauma Through Stories,
  • and “Teens: Intense Emotions and Suicidality.

Rep. Miller will present a legislative panel on relevant issues, including the Consent Law in Pennsylvania regarding mental health treatment for kids ages 14 to 18.

The conference is open to families and professionals interested in youth mental health issues. By accessing these resources, families can help ensure their kids’ future.