Orange County mental health funding should focus on youth, official says – WKMG News 6 & ClickOrlando

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Lauren Cervantes, Reporter
Published: May 26, 2022, 6:04 PM
Lauren Cervantes, Reporter
ORLANDO, Fla. – The manager of Orange County’s Mental Health and Homeless Division, Donna Wyche, said the county is making it a priority to address the gap in mental health services.
After more than 25 years of working in the mental health field, she said the focus has to be on early childhood intervention.
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“If we start earlier, we may never see that child have that first psychotic break, or that young adult have that first psychotic break, because we’re preparing for it,” said Wyche.
Wyche said the county is working on bringing a robust system of mental health care services to the community.
She said they put together an analysis, taking a look at the needs of people from birth to adulthood, when it comes to mental health.
What they found was it would cost $49 million a year to tackle mental health issues.
Wyche said the bulk of the funding will focus on the youth.
“I think it’s about $29 million that we said needed to be in that space, everything from training, to early learning interventions and daycare in early learning centers,” said Wyche.
She told News 6 that early childhood traumas, when left untreated, have the potential to end in a psychotic break.
“The further upstream you go in identifying children with behavioral health issues, the better off their family can function,” said Wyche, “The better off they will be learning to live with the disease.”
Orange County is taking the first step in the process and is expected to vote on a half a million-dollar grant which would go to the United Way to put together an implementation team.
The county said that vote is expected in the very near future.
If you or someone you know needs mental health help, we have a list of resources on the News 6 website.
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There are nationwide and local hotlines, support groups and other resources available to help people, even if they do not have mental health coverage with insurance. Here is a list of phone numbers, programs and groups available for the Central Florida area.
There is a new effort in the state to change this in the proposed state budget this year. Mental health experts say it’s a good start, but more will be needed.
According to a poll of parents by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 44% reported concerns about their children’s mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, but only 16% looked for help for their kids.
Did you know the weather has a huge impact on mental health?
Orange County received $1 million from the Heart of Florida United Way, a gift that’s part of a donation made to the nonprofit by author and philanthropist, McKenzie Scott.
The Heart of Florida United Way recently said their 2-1-1 crisis hotline has seen an uptick in the number of working families that can’t keep up with their rent or mortgage payments.
Lauren Cervantes was born and raised in the Midwest but calls Florida her second home. She joined News 6 in August 2019 as a reporter.
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