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Mayor Taps Leon for Youth Mental Health Care Team

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By Karen Guin

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacob's current initiatives
include improving the county's mental health care system for children and families. Once again the School of Social Work is able to help.

Last year, the mayor appointed a commission charged with examining and assessing the county's overall mental health care system. The commission invited Professor Ana Leon (right), an expert in infant mental health care, to serve on its Systems Design Committee. The commission reported its recommenda-tions to the mayor earlier this year.

Jacobs is now convening a group to work on the implementating the recommendations, and Leon has been asked to help. Beginning this month, she will serve as an appointed member of the Mayor's Youth Mental Health Implementation Team charged with implementing the commission's recommendations. The team's first meeting is planned for Oct. 20 in the Orange County Commission Chambers.

"The county's greatest challenges include addressing a child and youth mental health system of delivery that is fragmented, not consistently family focused, and extremely difficult for parents and families to navigate," Leon explained. "Services must be improved and in some cases developed to meet the needs of children and youth across the developmental continuum."

As an example, Leon said more services are needed for pregnant women so their children are afforded a better start in life, and services must be developed to address the social and emotional needs of children under the age of five years. In addition, younger and later-stage adolescents are lacking relevant services that address their unique developmental mental health needs.

"While the existing programs provide good services, there is room for enhancing those services and developing new ones," she added.

Leon has spent her 36-year career working to improve the lives of very young children and their families. She said she will bring passion and committment to the team "to ensure that mental health services are available to help children reach their optimal functioning in life." 

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