New Cuyahoga County, city of Cleveland task force combats youth mental health care shortage

Cuyahoga County government and non-profit leaders announced the formation of a new task force focused on addressing gaps between children and mental health care providers.

The city of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and Ohio Means Jobs | Cleveland-Cuyahoga County have partnered on the initiative, called the Youth Mental Health Workforce Development Sprint Task Force, according to a joint news release issued Tuesday.

Headed by Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb and Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne, the initiative will cultivate conversations between stakeholders and local leaders within the mental health community. The task force’s charge is based on a national strategy proposed by a consultant for the Technical Assistance Collaborative.

During a news conference, Bibb cited conversations with students, who said they would welcome mental health services if offered.

“I remember asking this one question among the students: ‘Raise your hand if you would want to have a therapist. Would you take me up on that offer?’ Every kid raised their hand, and you know what the caveat was? For them and their parents, too, or someone in the house,” Bibb said during a news conference Tuesday.

Strategies to improve the mental health worker pipeline include increased pay for social workers, student loan forgiveness and simplifying the licensing process for care providers.

Reporting from the task force will include a summary of work and progress, recommendations for action specific to workforce interventions and potential funding resources.

Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne speaks from a podium.

Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne speaks from a podium.

Ronayne noted that the right people and agencies are in place, but staffing remains an issue. Investing in a priority like access to mental health resources starts with legislation, he added.

“On the county side for county paid specialists, it will be, but I think again, this discussion among all of us is how do we bridge gaps?” Ronayne said.

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