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As children's mental health crisis events rise, a new clinic offers free service

Ulrike Mai
/
Pixabay
60% of Orange County residents reported not have access to mental and behavioral health services, according to county data.

Starting Monday, a Central Florida mental health clinic is expanding its services to uninsured children free of charge.

The Mental Health Association of Central Florida is expanding its services to Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Brevard, Lake, and Polk counties to meet the crisis needs of children 6-17 years old.

"We have seen during and post-pandemic the impact of children and adolescents coming to our area hospitals and emergency departments with a myriad of issues," said Marni Stahlman president and CEO of the Mental Health Association of Central Florida. "From self-harming behaviors, and suicidal patients to significant anxiety and depressive episodes that have underscored what we as adults have seen for ourselves, how the isolation and the changes in the conditions of how we were living, have negatively affected our own mental health and well-being."

A rising mental health crisis

Stahlman says the association community partners identified a 15-20% increase in mental health crisis episodes among young people over the last three years in Central Florida.

In October, the clinic provided free mental health services to a handful of adolescents as part of a pilot program at the Rock Lake Community Center in Orlando. Stahlman said the association was asked to start the program after numerous reports from Rock Lake Elementary School of children affected by gun violence in their families as well as domestic violence.

"We took that period of time to pilot best practices. We wanted to operate the incorporation of care management, expressive arts, therapy, and also guardian and parent education and advocacy support," she said.

The school reported positive results in the children after the start of the program.

"That pilot was really an indicator for us that we were definitely on the right track," she said.

Still, Central Florida as a whole lacks mental health services. According to county data, 60% of Orange County's residents reported not having adequate access to mental health services.

"That is even doubly so when we talk about people who don't have access to health insurance to help offset those costs," she said.

Hence why the program is free for the uninsured.

Additionally, the clinic won't charge families wishing to seek therapy services together, Stahlman said.

"When these children and adolescents come forward, they're not in isolation. They're in a family. They're in a continuum, and you have to provide support across the board to all of the individuals. Much like a mobile, there's one part that moves, but it all moves together," she said.

Setting up an appointment

After setting up an appointment, children will first be screened, and then an individual treatment plan will be created surrounding the child's needs, which may include one-on-one therapy, medication management, expressive arts therapy, and group education,

The new service is available starting Monday for children 6 -17 years old and is located at the Outlook Clinic, 901 W Church Street, just two blocks west of Orlando’s Exploria Stadium. The clinic also accepts telehealth appointments for those unable to drive to the Orlando location.

Call: 407-898-0110 Extension 2
Or visit: https://mhacf.org/youth-and-family-services/

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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