Some Mental Health Experts Agree with Autry

4/23/2008 Fresno, CA Autry is promising to find a way to avoid another Roosevelt High. On the front lines of the Valley's mental health crisis are therapists from a non-profit agency called Comprehensive Youth Services. Becky Kramer said: "I think there's a lot of hurt that somebody would be in such a situation that they would hurt so bad that this would happen."

Clinical Director Kramer said her agency has about three dozen therapists dealing with more and more students coping with depression and other kinds of mental illness. And the need is staggering, according to a statewide coalition that promotes teen wellness. The California Adolescent Health Collaborative claims nearly two-thirds of the state's young people need mental health treatment, but don't get it. And some 20% percent of kids 9 to 17 have some kind of diagnosable disorder. Kramer said: "Over the past several years we have noticed a significant increase in the number of students that are thinking of suicide, have suicidal plans, have suicidal intent and attempts."

Last year alone, Chief Jerry Dyer said his officers responded to 108 mental health calls at Fresno Unified High Schools, nearly all of the students ended up needing treatment.

Fresno County's Children and Family Services treats five thousand students a year. Its Director calls the Mayor's task force a step in the right direction. Catherine Huerta said: "There's not enough money to step all over each other and to duplicate."

With nearly $800-thousand dollars from Proposition 63, Huerta already plans to add nine mental health counselors in the schools next fall. But as for a proposed database created by the Mayor's task force, Huerta says that's a tough one. Huerta said: "People who are seeking any type of medical treatment have rights about who gets to know about that medical treatment that's going to be the absolute biggest barrier to any type of a database process."

With additional money from MediCal, the County's goal is to have counselors on every school campus in the next three years.

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