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Irvine, California is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. With over 230,000 residents, the population has exploded with an average annual growth of nearly 5% in the past 13 years1. The largest employer in the city is the University of California, Irvine, which draws thousands of educators, service workers, and other professionals from all over the world. Highly focused on education, Irvine has made great strides at improving its mental health services in recent years.

Mental Health Statistics
Data from the California Department of Mental Health for the year 2000 shows that 7.2% of youth living in Orange County had a serious emotional disturbance. The rate of serious mental illness for those over age 18 was reported to be 5.9%2. The DMH also reported that psychiatric holds or 72-hour evaluations were used by more than 8,000 county residents in the years 2008 and 20093.

Mental Health Programs
Of the many services offered to its citizens, several focus solely on psychological and social well-being. Spearheaded by the Irvine City Council, the Strategic Plan for Children, Youth and Families was overwhelmingly approved in 20084. The five-year plan focuses on six specific areas of improvement and aims to help community members thrive socially, physically, emotionally, and academically. The core goals include reducing poverty, improving overall health and fitness among youth, improving access and opportunities for early education, increasing positive mental health outcomes for Irvine’s youth, diminishing underage drinking, and expanding all community services designed to meet citizens’ needs.

Irvine is FOR Families
FOR Families is a key element of the Strategic Plan for Children, Youth and Families. FOR Families provides education, support, and even referrals to citizens of Irvine. Staffed by counselors, FOR Families addresses relationship problems, stress, financial problems, positive parenting, depression, women’s issues, family violence, aging, legal issues, and substance dependency. In 2011, FOR provided 185 Irvine citizens with consultations and gave telephonic support to over 850 citizens5.

In addition to the services already mentioned, FOR Families offers information sharing, problem-solving skills, personal one-on-one interviews, educational classes, goal-setting skills, and other workshops designed to improve well-being. The success of FOR Families demonstrates the need for programs like these and the value that Irvine offers its citizens by providing ever-improving avenues of treatment.

Another highly successful and well-received program in Irvine is PAUSE. Targeting adolescent and young adult substance abuse, PAUSE Campaign to Reduce Underage Drinking and Other Risky Behaviors hosts community forums and works with the High School Youth Action Team to inform city residents about substance abuse. Most recently, PAUSE educated over 475 people about the consequences of alcohol, marijuana, and illegal prescription pill use through its forums6.

Irvine continues to be an innovative and informative catalyst for advances in mental health through its university, elected officials, and most importantly, its community members.

1 Alpert, Emily. (2013). Irvine among fastest-growing U.S. cities. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/2013/may/22/local/la-me-0523-irvine-growth-20130523

2 California Health and Human Services Agency, Department of Mental Health. (2004). Original Prevalence Data Based on the 2000 Census Estimates of Prevalence of Persons with Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED) and Serious Mental Illness (SMI) Orange County. Retrieved from http://www.dmh.ca.gov/statistics_and_data_analysis/docs/Prevalence_Rates/Orange/Table1.pdf

3 California Health and Human Services Agency, Department of Mental Health. (2011). Adult 72-hour evaluations and treatments by county fiscal year 2008-2009. Retrieved from http://www.dmh.ca.gov/statistics_and_data_analysis/docs/InvoluntaryDetention_FY08-09/Rep0809_final_rev_21oct11.pdf

4 City of Irvine. (2013). Strategic Plan for Children, Youth and Families, Highlights for fiscal year 2010-2011. Retrieved from http://www.cityofirvine.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=21055

5 City of Irvine. (2013). Strategic Plan for Children, Youth and Families, Highlights for fiscal year 2010-2011. Retrieved from http://www.cityofirvine.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=21055

6 City of Irvine. (2013). Strategic Plan for Children, Youth and Families, Highlights for fiscal year 2010-2011. Retrieved from http://www.cityofirvine.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=21055