Mental-health issues impose a huge burden on Montgomery County families and individuals. Maybe you or someone you know has experienced their effects.
Here’s a telling statistic: one in five students suffers from a mental health disorder, according to Christina Conolly, Montgomery County Public Schools’ director of psychological services. Data show nearly 7 percent of children ages 3 to 17 had ADHD, 3.5 percent had behavioral or conduct problems, 3 percent had anxiety, and 2.1 percent had depression. Mental health “affects everything you do, in terms of how you’re learning, how you’re sleeping, how you’re eating,” Conolly said, speaking at a February program.
A chart from a 2015 report on Behavioral Health in Montgomery County provides numbers for the larger County population:
As a candidate for Montgomery County Council, at large, I am committed to addressing County mental and behavioral health needs. I’ve posted a position, drawing on conversations with affected families and community advocates…
Montgomery County has some very good services that work with persons in need of mental health assistance, and excellent partners such as NAMI Montgomery County, EveryMind, Cornerstone Montgomery, the Collaboration Council, and Adventist Healthcare. We have youth and non-English-language partners such as Identity, and programs extend into Montgomery County Public Schools. We have a 24 Hour Crisis Center with mobile crisis outreach response.
Yet there is unmet demand. We have insufficient psychiatric outpatient services and hospital beds for those with serious mental illness. This gap has overburdened our hospital emergency rooms and resulted in long ER waits for all county residents. Student mental and behavioral health are particular concerns, as is our reaction to individuals with mental health issues. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have a mental health condition, and substance abuse and addictions are rampant.
We must work with state regulators and with County agencies and providers to redouble our commitment and expand the scope of County mental health services and partnerships. I will support programs to reduce criminalization, suicide, and homelessness and promote measures to enhance recovery for all individuals with mental illness and behavioral health needs.
I welcome your comments, stories, and suggestions. What has your personal / family experience been with mental and behavioral health issues and the support you’ve received? How can Montgomery County better support you and your family? If you have dealt with these issues, I admire your courage and would like to hear from you how we can improve life for residents confronting these challenges.