Orange County will spend an extra $1 million on a mental health campaign aimed at youngsters and their parents this year in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs is determined not to let one of those types of incidents happen here.
"In nearly every case we've seen of tragic shootings like this, there is mental health associated with it, and in most cases, the families have not known what to do or how to reach out and get the appropriate help."
Commissioner Fred Brummer says the county will give mental health screenings to children at its PCAN clinics if asked. He says parents need to know that a child acting up could be a sign of a larger problem.
"For way too long, not in Florida, but nationwide, we have ignored the issue of mental health. There's a stigma attached to it. It's not the type of thing that folks will discuss about their Johnny or their Janie."
Spending the extra million dollars will also allow Orange to get a matching federal grant of a million dollars. Orange County Mental Health Division Manager Donna Wyche says this will give parents better choices.
"Families will actually have their children arrested because they think that's the last resort. they think that's the only thing they can do to get help, and that's not acceptable."
Commissioner Brummer says the campaign will use things like billboards, social media, and public service announcements to let parents know there are other options for children that are not behaving properly.
"It's no longer a sin for a parent to ask that question about their child. That's really the culture that needs to change."
The biggest concern is funding. Orange County has now extended this program for two years, but there is no state or federal money lined up for 2015 when the program winds down. They estimate it will cost $2.3 million per year to continue it.