JWB initiative pairs children’s physical and mental health in new care program

Suzette Porter | Tampa Bay Newspapers

Nov 05, 2019

Source: Pexels

Pinellas County’s children are “really struggling.”

That was the message conveyed by Juvenile Welfare Board’s Chief Administrative Officer Lynda Leedy during a recent Board of County Commissioners meeting.

Leedy told commissioners about the need for more mental health care for children. According to a 2017 study, 25% of children have considered suicide and about 20% have a plan to do it, she said. Suicide is the No. 2 cause of death for youth in America. The number of children ages 14-17 who have tried to kill themselves has tripled in the years 2007-2017.

The increase in suicide among children is one of the reasons the Juvenile Welfare Board has been working on a Children’s Mental Health Initiative designed to enhance public awareness about the problem. Those involved have a mission to provide an “accessible, family-oriented, coordinated, comprehensive, high quality system, which is supported by an engaged and skilled workforce.”

Leedy said more professionals are needed to provide mental health care to children. Barriers to access to care need to be eliminated. Children need to be treated as early as possible, she said.

Forty community leaders have been meeting since May 2018, looking for ways to improve care. Five teams took on different needs. One focused on access to care. Another looked at ways to increase the workforce of mental health care providers for children.

A third group tackled public awareness and family involvement. The fourth was assigned the task of measuring outcomes of care programs, and the fifth took on finding ways to finance a system of care.

One of the solutions the initiative is trying involves a partnership with Community Health Center of Pinellas. Five locations that offer pediatric services are now providing age-appropriate universal screenings during regular doctor’s visits. Children with more complex needs will be referred to a mental health provider.

JWB is providing resources, such as training and education for staff. JWB also is working with the county’s schools to involve them in the program.

A multidisciplinary team will meet weekly and review patient cases to identify opportunities to improve or change the program.

In other business from Oct. 22, the commission:

  • Approved submitting an application for a Florida Job Growth Grant to fund taxiway improvements at the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.
  • Approved a proposal for a Florida Job Growth Grant to fund a portion of the cost to design, construct and equip the Tampa Bay Innovation Center incubator in St. Petersburg.
  • Approved a resolution in support of Formulated Solutions LLC becoming a qualified applicant for an economic development ad valorem tax exemption. The company plans to expand its current site and add 75 new jobs. The exemption would apply to the expansion.
  • Approved a $1 million grant agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice for an Opioid Affected Youth Initiative in partnership with the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court. The grant would be paid over a three-year period and serve at least 75 children.
  • Awarded a contract to Denson Construction Inc. for $484,717 for the Philippe Park pedestrian bridge replacement project and approved an amendment to the interlocal agreement with the city of Safety Harbor, which is a project partner.
  • Approved a resolution authorizing submittal of a Public Library Construction Grant application to the Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Services for the East Lake Community Library renovation project. If the library receives the $170,000 requested, the money would be used for minor interior renovations, new furnishings, lighting, equipment and technology. The full cost of the project is $340,000. The library would provide the matching $170,000 from its capital projects reserve fund.
  • Approved a resolution authorizing the lease of property between the county and the towns of North Redington Beach and Redington Shores, as well as interlocal agreements and ground lease agreements for a multi-tenant, joint-use facility.
  • Approved a $300,000 Environmental Protection Brownfield Assessment Grant agreement for the Lealman Community Redevelopment Area.
  • Approved an ordinance on second reading amending the Future Land Use and Quality Communities Element and the Housing Element of the Comprehensive Plan to delete policies that limit affordable housing densities in certain commercial and mixed-use Future Land Use Map categories.
  • Approved a request for a land use change from residential urban to residential medium on 1.79 acres at 11290 Walsingham Road in unincorporated Seminole. The amendment would allow Sweet Water at Largo to increase the number of beds at its assisted living facility by 26.

Sitting as the Emergency Medical Services Board, commissioners:

  • Approved the advanced life support first responder agreements with the cities of St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach. The five-year term begins Oct. 1, 2019 and ends on Sept. 30, 2024. It has an option for one additional five-year extension. The agreement includes an opt-in for the priority dispatch system, which has been implemented in Clearwater, Largo, Lealman, Safety Harbor and Seminole.

Sitting as the Countywide Planning Authority, commissioners:

  • Approved an ordinance amending the Countywide Rules and Countywide Plan Strategies during a second public hearing. The ordinance allows replacement of the transit-oriented land use vision map with a land-use strategy map and reclassifies special centers and special corridors. It also allows modifying standards, requirements and amendment process for activity center and multimodal corridor categories. It allows creation of a planned redevelopment district category and provides for new density and intensity bonuses.

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