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Funding to promote prevention and early intervention of mental health issues

POSTED February 8, 2011 11:39 p.m.

In the past, California public mental health services were limited to treatment, usually medication, for people with serious mental illness.  The California Mental Health Commission is hoping to change that by promoting “help first” rather than “fail first” mental health treatment.

Towards those efforts, the commission recently approved over $123 million for three prevention and early intervention programs statewide —suicide prevention, stigma and discrimination reduction and student mental health programs.

“Our commission’s approval today of three statewide prevention and early intervention programs will provide California with an opportunity to prevent tragedies like the one that recently occurred in Tucson, Ariz.,” said Mental Health Services  Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) Chair Larry Poaster in a statement released Jan. 27.

“California will continue to be a leader in providing mental health programs that prevent mental illness from going untreated,” he continued.

The $123.8 million — funded through the Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63) — is available for organizations to implement approved prevention and early intervention programs.  Two of the programs target students, kindergarten through college.

The University and College Student Mental Health Programs will implement training, peer-to-peer support and suicide prevention within each of the three California higher education systems: University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges.

According to Ron Noble, California State University, Stanislaus vice president of Enrollment and Student Affairs, the university already provides mental health services through the counseling center and well-being workshops that are held on campus throughout the academic year. However, Noble said there are no programs that currently focus on suicide prevention.

“I see how we could use this funding to provide more information and resources,” he said.

The Kindergarten to 12th Grade Student Mental Health Program focuses on training and support for school officials to ensure effective referral of students to county mental health departments.

Other approved programs will create public campaigns that increase awareness of mental health issues and expand the number and capacity of accredited local suicide prevention hotlines.

Over the past few years there has been an overall decrease in mental health services in Stanislaus County.

“There’s a tremendous amount of unmet need in this area,” said Denise Hunt, Stanislaus County director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services.

Hunt hopes regional organizations apply for the funding and implement programs that will benefit residents of the county and the entire Central Valley.

According to the MHSOAC, nearly half the United States’ population will suffer a mental health and/or substance-use disorder during their lifetime; 26 to 30 percent will experience a mental disorder in any given year; and about 6 percent will face a mental disorder so serious that it impairs their ability to perform everyday activities for an average of three months.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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