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Mental health teams for kids deserve support

As the Senate and House head into session, I wonder if “this may be the year for mental health,” as Sen. Aaron Bean proclaimed at our recent Senate HHS mental health panel discussion called by Senate President Andy Gardiner and headed by Sen. Rene Garcia. It was refreshing to hear Bean make this statement.

And it was equally refreshing to see Rep. Janet Adkins call a Duval County Legislative Delegation meeting to focus on mental health issues.

But will it happen? Is this the year?

At the top of the list should be addressing children’s issues. If we want anything to change, we must invest early. But children are not islands.

We must treat families as the operational systems they are.

The silos of our service provision dollars creates roadblocks and unfunded areas in service.

Prevention, early identification, and early intervention are the keys to success in any health care focus of treatment.

With mental health, we hold fast to a “project blame,” “take ownership,” and “fix yourself” belief system.

I applaud our Florida House and Senate members for their willingness to pilot Children’s Community Action Teams programs — and to support them through their second year.

We see the results of treating, in a systemic manner, what often emerges as individual issues.

The data shows the overall success rate, tracked by the lack of need for deeper end (hospitalization, incarceration) and more expensive services.

In the Jacksonville area alone, Children’s Community Action Teams at Child Guidance Center showed an overall 65 percent success rate for its first year.

And it has already surpassed that with an 81 percent success rate over the first seven months of the current fiscal year.

Success is defined by the completion of services while remaining in the community — with no further movement toward placement within the juvenile justice system, substance abuse treatment system or more costly residential services.

I encourage the further support of these programs.

Let’s make this “The Year for Mental Health!”

Theresa Rulien, president, Child Guidance Center,