During an Aug. 10 meeting, the Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an amendment to the county’s contract to increase funding by allocating over $140,000 to the nonprofit Charitable Ventures, citing that the pandemic’s “unexpected stressors” left children with a need to strengthen their emotional wellbeing.
Chairman Andrew Do motioned to provide an additional $5 million from the Mental Health Services Act toward the county’s contract, bringing the amount to $7 million.
“As students return to the classroom this fall, for the first time in over a year for many, parents and teachers must work together with mental health professionals to improve their student’s social, emotional, and behavioral health and development,” Do said in a statement.
“These services will equip our early childhood providers, school districts, and local community youth leaders with the proper knowledge and training needed to ensure healthy development in young children despite the stressors they may be experiencing.”
Early childhood mental health consultation is a preventative service that builds the capacity of staff and programs in child care settings to reduce mental health problems in children.
“We start to see behavioral health problems in early childhood, and if you can intervene early, you can affect the trajectory of their development,” Jeff Nagel, deputy agency director of Behavioral Health Services.
Nagel said the funding will provide early childhood education providers with consultation services to help them develop “good practices for dealing with problem behaviors.”
The funding will be provided not only to children with pandemic-induced burdens, but will go toward children up to age 8 with behavioral issues.
Vice Chair Doug Chaffee said during the meeting that “it is extremely important to take care of our children to help them resolve mental health issues at an early age. It just exacerbates as they get older and sometimes leads to substance abuse disorder as well.”
Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said the contracted number of child care sites in 2019 to 2020 was reduced from 30 to 12.
Nagel said the number of child care sites was reduced “in response to the public health emergency,” adding that the number of sites will be increased with the additional funding.
He said the new child care locations will be focused on “communities of color.”
The mental health consultants will provide training to workers at these early childhood education sites.
“We saw how young children faced many challenges over the past year such as disruptions to their daily routines, adjusting to virtual learning, and missing seeing their friends and family,” Chaffee said in a statement. “This prevention-focused approach will help strengthen their social and emotional wellbeing during the pandemic and beyond.
“It’s critical that we continue to train educators, faculty, and members of the community across Orange County to recognize and identify signs of mental or behavioral issues in students and connect them to resources.”