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Orange County has a mental health problem, here's what the county plans to do

Orlando's Lake Eola. Photo: Mick Haupt
Photo: Mick Haupt
Orlando's Lake Eola

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 pre-booking diversion programming at the Orange 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 on to 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.

Originally from South Florida, Joe Mario came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida where he graduated with degrees in Radio & Television Production, Film, and Psychology. He worked several beats and covered multimedia at The Villages Daily Sun but returned to the City Beautiful as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel where he covered crime, hurricanes, and viral news. Joe Mario has too many interests and not enough time but tries to focus on his love for strange stories in comic books and horror movies. When he's not writing he loves to run in his spare time.
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