Nassau County officials are unveiling a plan Monday to proactively identify people with mental health disorders to get them treatment before they self-medicate with drugs and alcohol or turn violent.
County health officials will coordinate outreach to schools, community and religious organizations to raise awareness as well as encourage pediatricians and other primary care physicians to focus more on behavioral health.
“We hope to avoid tragedies in Nassau County that stem from a lack of access to needed behavioral health care,” said Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, dubbing it the Behavior Wellness Campaign.
As the Press has reported, Long Island’s short-staffed and under-funded substance abuse and mental health treatment providers are already bracing for a wave of new patients traumatized by Superstorm Sandy.
Mangano pointed to untreated mental illness widely believed to be motivators in recent mass murders such as the Newtown massacre.
He also quoted statistics suggesting about 50 million Americans—children and adults—experience substance abuse and underlying mental illness annually, but only 38 percent get treatment.
In addition, county health officials plan to provide mental health first aid training for school personnel and are seeking ways to expand court programs for criminals who’ve been inadequately treated for behavioral health disorders.