ALBANY – Recently, New York City Health Department’s analysis showed that 1 in 5 children between the ages of 6 and 12 years old suffer from a mental illness. However, officials estimate that this number is, in fact, much larger due to parents’ inability and/or reluctance to seek help.
This can be caused by the failure to recognize a behavior as a mental illness, by the social stigma related to this issue or simply by the lack of access to mental health professionals.
Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz, former Chair of the NYS Assembly Mental Health Committee and current Chair of the Cities Committee, believes that it is crucial to implement universal mental health screenings at an early age. This will allow early detection and diagnosis, which will increase the chances of individuals getting the professional help they need, prior to much more serious behavioral problems. Early detection and treatment can curve the negative economic impact that undetected mental illnesses have in all municipalities throughout the state.
Currently there is no requirement to have mental health professionals in elementary schools. Assemblyman Ortiz has introduced a bill (A.3227) to change this. "By having mental health professionals in these settings, we can assist with early diagnosis, interventions, and treatments," said Ortiz, "these services will address the needs of individuals, their families and ultimately, the community as a whole."