Mental Health advocates want to see mental health screening in schools

400 counselors serve Palm Beach County schools

BOCA RATON, Fla. - We may never know what led Adam Lanza to massacre 26 people before taking his own life Friday morning in Newtown, Connecticut. 

Local psychologists say the tragedy is a clear sign we need to get a better understanding of mental illness. But funding treatment and education programs is scarce in Florida.

"I for it's hard for us to find good options. There's a reason Florida is 49th or 50th when it comes to funding for resources," says Dr. Roslyn Malmaud.

Part of the problem is the complexity of mental illness. Be it bi-polar disorder or paranoid schizophrenia, every case is different. It can take a violent act to require hospitalization.

State budget cuts over the last three year drastically reduced funding for families who adopt a child with mental illness, and it hasn't been restored.

"It was cut almost 75% overnight," says Dr. Malmaud.

Liz Downey is the Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Health, or NAMI, a grassroots effort by families to offer services. She says the stigma associated with the disease is the biggest hurdle to overcome. 

"That's why we don't have the money, it's the stigma. Until you are personally affected by it, you're not going to see a big change," says Downey.

NAMI estimates one in 4 adults and one in 10 children in Palm Beach County suffer from mental illness. She proposes children receive mental assessments every year at school just as they get physicals.

"We don't want schools diagnosing, but we want to make sure we're covering all the bases," says Downey.

Downey says NAMI one ran a parent-teacher program on mental illness in the Palm Beach County School District, but that disappeared.

"We don't have it today because of the funding," says Downey.

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