Orlando City Council approves millions in funding to address homelessness, mental health issues

ORLANDO, Fla. — According to Aspire Health Partners in Orlando, 40 percent of adults in the United States have experienced mental illness during the pandemic.

Experts say a large portion of that population can be found in urban communities.

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Verndale Johnson is a Parramore resident and mother whose son struggles with mental illness.

She says she worries about him every day, despite her best efforts to get him some help.

“The first diagnosis was bipolar. I took him back a few years ago, and it was schizophrenia,” Johnson says. “I’ve baker-acted him. I’ve trespassed him. He’s been arrested…”

If you’ve been feeling more anxious or depressed during the pandemic, we want you to know that you’re not alone ...and...

Posted by Aspire Health Partners on Thursday, June 10, 2021

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However, Johnson says nothing has worked, and her son remains on the streets.

“Because he’s gotten so intense and gotten worse, I really do need help.” Johnson says. “I’m not equipped to handle that. I thought with some of the support they have in Orlando, somebody would help me.”

The Orlando City Council recently approved nearly 3 million dollars in funding agreements that leveraged federal funds to help partner agencies care for those experiencing homelessness and mental health issues.

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In February, the Orlando Police Department created a community response team of experts who get dispatched to non-violent, mental health calls.

From March to April, the team responded to 210 non-violent calls for service, connecting a total of 227 people with treatment and support services.

“What we have done is pay enough attention to those that can’t be housed because of them being mentally ill, so they are still here in downtown Orlando and Parramore, and families are beginning to feel unsafe” Orlando Commissioner Regina Hill said. “We need to put more money into mental health and substance abuse and our homeless population.”

Karen Parks, WFTV.com

Karen Parks is a reporter at WFTV.