Orange Co. commissioner proposes mental health screening program for children

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At their meeting Tuesday, Orange County commissioners discussed a proposal to spend $1 million to help screen children for mental health issues.

The move is in response to the elementary school massacre in Connecticut.

A quarter of the patients at Lakeside Behavioral Health Care in Orange County are children.

Vice President of Acute Care Tom Greenman said when state funding falls short the county has stepped in to help.

"It's hard to say what will ever be enough. Every child should be screened for mental health issues, but any amount right now is helpful," said Greenman.

Orange County Commissioner Fred Brummer said that currently there is nowhere for families to turn for free or reduced-cost mental health care in the county.
   
"For far too long in our society, and our country, we've kept mental health issues in the closet," said Brummer.

On Tuesday Brummer asked fellow commissioners to take $1 million from county reserves to develop a mental health screening program for children of underinsured families.

Brummer's plan would allow parents who lack insurance, or who can't afford screenings, to take their children to a clinic and have a screening.

The screening would be optional and available to families with concerns about their children.

"Before we get to a cure we have to have an evaluation as to whether or not the person has the disease," said Brummer.

Greenman said that type of care could fill a gap and possibly prevent tragedies like the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

"Right now it is not there, so this funding could really identify something very critical for a child or a family and help them on the path to success," said Greenman.

Commissioners asked county staff to put together a plan to present at a January meeting.