The Mental Health Association of Central Florida Launches Free Mental Health Counseling Services for Youth and Families

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  • The program serves uninsured youth ages 6-17 and their families

  • Services are delivered primarily from 901 W. Church Street, Orlando

  • Youth receive individualized treatment plans which may include one-on-one therapy, medication management, expressive arts therapy, group education, and/or other services.

  • The first step to access services it to complete a basic clinical assessment, so that the team at MHACF can determine how to best provide personalized mental health services.

THE FULL DETAILS:

The Mental Health Association of Central Florida (MHACF.org) is proud to announce that it will begin offering free mental health services to uninsured children, adolescents (6-17yrs) and their families beginning on January 8, 2024 at the Outlook Clinic (901 W. Church Street, Orlando). The program will serve Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Brevard, Lake, and Polk counties. The organization’s Outlook Clinic has previously provided free mental health and medication management services to uninsured adults in Central Florida for more than twelve years.

The incorporation of youth and family services into the menu of resources now being made available was the result of staff and leadership at the MHACF witnessing an unsettling trend – an increasing number of local children and adolescents experiencing a mental health crisis. “This generation of young people is dealing with extreme stress. On top of school life, social pressure, navigating relationships with family and friends, and all the standard challenges of growing up they’re also worried about gun violence, hate crimes, and assaults on diversity and inclusion. Furthermore, they recently endured a global pandemic that upended many of their routines and sense of place and belonging. We owe it to young people to help them build psychological flexibility to support mental well-being for life. In doing so, we not only build a resilient generation, but we also alleviate the overburdened healthcare system and reduce the mounting cost of acute mental healthcare”, states Dr. Marni Stahlman, President/CEO of MHACF.

The new initiative, with initial funding from the Central Florida Cares Health System and the Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, is provided at no cost to uninsured children, adolescents and their families who may be experiencing mental health struggles or are in recovery from an acute mental health crisis. After completing an initial clinical screening, the team will work to create an individualized treatment plan for the youth which may include one-on-one therapy, medication management, expressive arts therapy, group education, and/or other services. In addition, each client will have dedicated care management services included which will aim to connect them to essential community resources in order provide comprehensive care. The program will also facilitate group education opportunities for parents and guardians. The goal is to empower the well-being and recovery for both the youth and family by providing an array of critical support.

Programs at the MHACF are driven by the Before Stage 4 (B4Stage4) philosophy. – that mental health conditions should be treated long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process. When it comes to diseases like cancer or heart disease, the medical community is vigilant to treat them before they reach Stage 4. There is a major focus on prevention, identifying symptoms, and developing a plan of action to stop and hopefully reverse the progression of the disease. Like other diseases, it is critical to address symptoms of mental illness early and plan an appropriate course of action on a path towards overall wellness. Even if an intervention does not happen at the onset, and serious mental illnesses get worse, offering people choices and support can help them recover. This new Youth and Family Services program seeks to provide foundational support to the traumas youth are experiencing in order to intervene as early as possible and promote well-being and recovery.

Stacy Perin, L.C.S.W, the Director of the Youth and Family Services program, believes that the program is destined to make a big difference.  “In October, we began providing free mental health services to a handful of adolescents as part of a pilot program at the Rock Lake Community Center in Orlando. The results have been nothing short of inspiring thus far. I have had the opportunity to work with children who have experienced domestic violence, homelessness, substance abuse, and other traumas. We have started to help these children by providing therapy, openly discussing their emotions, identifying positive coping methods, and providing a system of support which can help change the trajectory of their life at an early age”, Perin states.

One example from the pilot program is a child who was expelled from school due to behavioral issues and was also engaging in self-harm behaviors. Months later, this same student just received a “student of the week” certificate for his particular class, and is actively practicing coping methods as opposed to self-harm.

“For me this is what we are all about. The outside world may see these things as small gains, but we are helping these youth early on when it can make the biggest impact in their lives. We want people in our community to take advantage of these free services. There is no reason a child should be denied the help they need and deserve, “ adds Perin.

Those interested in accessing free mental health services through the Youth and Family Services program can do so starting on January 8th by visiting https://mhacf.org/youth-and-family-services/ or by calling 407-898-0110 Extension 2.  The first step will be to complete a basic clinical assessment, so that the team at MHACF can determine how to best provide personalized mental health services to the individual and their family.

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