Why We’re Invested
Untreated mental illness in children and young adults can devastate individuals and destroy their families. Its impact also extends throughout our community, costing us all dearly. A new study put that economic cost at $86 million a year here in Sarasota County. That’s a conservative estimate, too, according to the experts who quantified it. Plus it says nothing of the negative impacts that are impossible to value.
This research was about much more than pegging the financial price of untreated mental illness. It assesses existing services, details unmet needs, identifies strengths to build on and documents barriers to improved mental well-being. It recommends benchmarks and indicators to better evaluate community services and measure success. Most importantly, it lays out strategic policy recommendations to systemically improve mental health care for Sarasota County youth.
The study confirms shortcomings we have long suspected. So many of us have personal stories about the mental health challenges affecting young people in our lives. Every such story testifies to the need for a mental health care system that works for our children and their families. Which is where the value of this research scan materializes. The 67-page report quantifies what we have, what is missing and where specific help is needed most. Financing a complete system of care will require more effective use of existing funding streams as well as finding new revenue sources—many of which demand such quantified, validated evidence.
Our community has already made progress taking a similar “systems change” approach in other areas. Consider the homeless crisis response system now being collaboratively managed by government, law enforcement and nonprofit agencies. It started with commissioning an expert—the Florida Housing Coalition—to help assess and quantify our current situation and customize a strategy melding national best practices with local strengths and circumstances. Then we got down to working the plan.