Orange County Government, Florida
29 April 2014
Mayor Jacobs' Youth Mental Health Commission
Issues Final Report
Mayor Teresa Jacobs convened a twenty-member Commission comprised of community leaders to develop new strategies and initiatives to address children’s mental health in Orange County. The initial Commission meeting, pictured above, occurred August 26, 2013.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs’ Youth Mental Health Commission presented its final report to the Board of County Commissioners in late April. Richard Morrison, Regional Vice President of Florida Hospital and co-chair of the Youth Mental Health Commission, made the presentation. The Commission was created in August 2013.

“Protecting and supporting the most vulnerable in our community must be our top priority,” said Mayor Jacobs. “Particularly for families and young people who are struggling with mental health issues, we must provide convenient access to services, and help break down any stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment.”

The Commission conducted an extensive analysis of how needs are met in the Central Florida community and what can be done to help children, youth and their families with mental health issues.

“The community takes mental health and resilience for granted until a crisis occurs,” said Morrison. “The cost of such an approach is great: lives are disrupted or lost, resources are used for expensive services and many children, youth and their families are left to struggle with their challenges.”

To make the changes necessary to enhance the mental wellbeing of our county’s children and youth, the Youth Mental Health Commission identified the need to have a group of committed citizens to act as an oversight and implementation commission to fix what is broken, to create what is not there, to teach what good mental health is, and to see that parents are involved in the solutions.

“This approach will be cost effective and accountable,” said Morrison. “I want to thank Mayor Jacobs for having the foresight to bring this commission together and have the work begin on making our community better.”

The next steps will be the creation of an “Implementation Team and Management Network” to recommend strategies for carrying out the following:

  • providing the platform for the multitude of recommendations centering on accountability,
  • credentialing and expansion of qualified clinicians,
  • centralizing intake and behavioral health navigation,
  • in-depth assessment, care coordination using unified plans,
  • increasing the use of evidence-based practices,
  • data collaboration and management,
  • expanding the service array,
  • creating a model for public awareness and community education forums to increase family support and advocacy,
  • increasing accessibility for children, youth and young adults in our community, and
  • determining long-term financial sustainability.

“It's crucial that our community takes a holistic approach to creating a healthy, livable community, and that must include mental health,” said the Mayor. “Knowing that the overwhelming majority of mental health issues arise before the age of 25, it makes great sense to focus on providing resources for families and parents.”

Background: As a result of tragedies around our country and the attention to issues surrounding mental health access in our County and State, Mayor Teresa Jacobs convened the Youth Mental Health Commission on August 26, 2013. The Mayor’s purpose was to convene a group of stakeholders, community leaders and consumers who would delve into system issues for children’s mental health and address short and long term strategies for improvements to those systems meant to serve this vulnerable population. Richard Morrison, Regional Vice President of Florida Hospital and Chief Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., of the Ninth Judicial Circuit quickly accepted the challenge of co-chairing the Commission. The Commission members truly epitomized the dedicated leadership, critical thinking and experience necessary for the task. Along with the Commission members an astounding 114 representatives of affected family members, mental health professionals, and interested parties participated in the working committees.

The Commission recognized that the populations to be served by the proposed Youth Mental Health System of Care include those individuals from birth through age 24. Scientific evidence reinforces our need to pay attention to that range due to trauma en utero, exposure to violence, untreated symptoms and their effects of the onset of major mental health issues in children. Combined with the onset of mental illness for many children, and teens transitioning to adulthood, the range of 0-24 made the most sense.

The Commission established four working committees and one workgroup charged with reviewing local and national data and current practices and outcomes of the youth mental health system in Orange County. These committees had on-going meetings for six months with specific goals and objectives. The groups were as follows:

  • Needs Committee - Glen Casel, Community Based Care of Central Florida
  • Systems Design Committee - William D’Aiuto, the Florida Department of Children and Families and Muriel Jones, Federation of Families of Central Florida
  • Finance and Sustainability Committee - Jerry Kassab, Lakeside Behavioral Healthcare/Aspire and Maria Bledsoe, Central Florida CARES
  • Public Awareness and Community Education Committee – Sara Brady, Sara Brady Public Relations
  • Impact of Violence Workgroup - Carol Wick, Harbor House

The final report may be viewed in its entirety on Orange County’s website.