May 06, 2023

Youth organizations expanding access to mental health services in Anaheim with $1 million in federal funds

Advocates and operators of youth development programs met with U.S. Rep. Lou Correa (CA-46) in Anaheim on Thursday to celebrate the procurement of $1 million in funding to improve children’s access to mental health services and after school activities.

The money will help cover the cost of targeted counseling and support by organizations like Be Well OC for around 500 kids, said Anaheim Community Foundation executive director Janis Heckel. It will also help pay for larger group recreation programs that would benefit around 5,000 youth run by groups like the YMCA or the Boys & Girls Club.

“I look at this as an investment not in mental health but rather channeling the energy of these young folks in the right direction,” Correa told a group of local kids and representatives of nonprofits that will be supported by the funds during a check presentation ceremony at the Downtown Anaheim Youth Center.

The funds come amid a rise in anxiety among youth and teen suicides, Heckel said. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study updated in March found that teen girls and those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community are being exposed to increasing levels of violence and trauma.

The declining trend in the mental health of American youth may have its roots in “school connectedness” when distance learning supplanted in-person instruction, according to the CDC. And in recent months, schools across Orange County have been receiving substantially more reports of racial slurs and name calling than they have in previous years, O.C. Human Relations executive director Alison Edwards said Thursday.

“When students are faced with situations where they don’t feel safe, they don’t feel welcome in school, they can’t integrate new knowledge,” Edwards said. “They stay in survival mode.”

Those gathered Thursday hope recently acquired funds will help create safe spaces for young people as well as outlets for their frustrations and creativity.

The money was approved as part of this fiscal year’s omnibus appropriations bill, which President Biden signed into law in 2022. It also included at least another $29 million to support other community projects throughout Orange County.

By:  Eric Licas
Source: The LA Times-Daily Pilot