New study shows Orange County needs nearly $50 million to address mental health issues

There’s also a challenge to get more bilingual counselors

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – In 2021, Orange County voted unanimously to approve $315,000 for a study by the Heart of Florida United Way to do an analysis of the county’s mental and behavioral health system.

A year later, those findings were discussed during a county meeting with lead members of the organization.

“Constituents call us, we see it on the news, and today’s study from the United Way actually backed up all those concerns we have,” Commissioner Mayra Uribe said. “I’ve been on the phone with mothers who literally want to turn their children over to the system because they don’t know what to do.”

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Uribe told News 6, the report confirms the county needs more resources to get results for those struggling with mental health issues.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said the county has at least a $49.7 million dollar gap in mental and behavioral services and added a team of professionals will take what the report says is missing, and find solutions.

“The implementation team will look at existing budgets and allocations through the different community stakeholder organizations and see if there’s an opportunity for realignment of existing dollars, and then if there are new dollars that need to be brought to the table then we will identify sources from federal dollars, state dollars, and even the private sector,” Demings said. “They will help to lead us through a public, private and philanthropic partnership in our community on addressing the gaps that have been identified.”

According to the Heart of Florida United Way, their report ranked Florida 49 out of 50 when it comes to how easy it is to access mental health services.

“Honestly I think it’s a combination. I think that this work is not necessarily paid at the rate that it is. Secondly, there’s an issue with insurance, private insurance, Medicaid all these things that are involved in getting that critical care,” Uribe said.

And then there’s also a challenge to get more bilingual counselors and address the stigma associated with mental health.

“That was actually a big part of the program was the bilingual, the language but not only that, the cultural part. In certain cultures, it’s not seen very well for you to suffer from mental health and we have to be cognizant of that,” Uribe said and added that she believes there is a labor shortage of mental health counselors and physicians because the pay is not competitive enough.


About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.