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Orange County has a mental health problem. Here's what authorities plan to do

Orlando's Lake Eola. Photo: Mick Haupt
Mick Haupt
After three years of looking at gaps in mental health, Orange County has a new plan and plans to put its money where its mouth is.

The decision to invest $10 million to expand services came after the county received a report detailing the status of mental health in the region last year.

About 60% of Orange County's 1.4 million residents don’t have adequate access to mental health and behavioral services, according to county authorities.

Thus, the county has decided to lead the way and invest in new mental health and behavioral services, said Donna Wyche, the manager of the county’s mental health and homelessness division. Wyche made the announcement of the county's plan Tuesday during a commissioner meeting.

The decision to expand mental health services came after the county received a reportdetailing the status of mental health in the area last year.

Orange County will invest $10 million this year toward many programs including the implementation of a Crisis Intervention Training program for first responders, increasing prebooking diversion programming at the county jail, and launching a mental health service pilot program for children up to 18 years old in the county’s primary pediatric care office.

Wyche, who is overseeing the initiative, said children are a priority in the plan.

“We're adding onto some grants we have that are very children-focused, family-focused training, and evidence-based practices, clinicians and, and daycare workers do identify kids that need help, and intervention," she said.

Wyche also said the initiative will ultimately cost $49 million a year to implement all recommendations. As the program begins, it has $20 million already.

About $27 million of the total is planned for children's services to help address problems early on.

"Lifetime mental health issues present about 50% of the time before the age of 14. So there's a lot of kids out there that can be easily prevented from having misery in their lives based on their behavioral health issue," she said.

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Joe Mario Pedersen