Florida’s First Lady Casey DeSantis announced a new statewide mental health initiative Thursday morning at Roland Park K-8 Magnet School in Tampa.
The “Hope for Healing Florida Campaign” is a multi-agency coordinated plan that will take a hard look at how the state is spending money on mental health and substance abuse. The first step will be to gather resources in one place.
Casey DeSantis, the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet chairwoman, is “the bulldog leading the charge,” according to Gov. Ron Desantis.
She says in the “first of what will be many bold steps,” they’ll print “Hope for Healing Mental Health and Substance Abuse Resource Guides” with information on state-partnered programs that range from crisis intervention and prevention to ongoing care.
“We feel that if more people could access these programs, they would access them if they knew they existed,” DeSantis said. “But, unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know what’s out there.”
Casey DeSantis said the resources will be printed onto brochures, paid for by businesses and corporations, not taxpayers, and distributed at schools, community centers, and more.
They’ll also be available at the hopeforhealingfloridaFL.com website with an interactive map feature that will show programs within a given location. An app is also being designed.
“We need a 21st century upgrade to this crisis,” Casey DeSantis said.
The state already spends about $2 billion annually on mental health and substance abuse, but the first lady said it’s unclear which programs work well - and which don’t.
“If some of these programs are not serving the people well, then why do we continuously fund them? We need accountability for the nearly $2 billion the state spends on mental health and substance abuse,” Casey DeSantis said.
“We owe it to the taxpayer, the people who are suffering, the people who are looking for hope - to make sure we have accountability and transparency over these programs. And if at the end of the day we find out we need more resources, then I’m going to be one of the first people going to the legislature to advocate for more funds.”
The governor said there were more than 3,200 plus deaths in Florida last year because of opioid overdoses, and 60% of adolescents in community-based substance use disorder treatment programs meet diagnostic criteria for mental health.
According the National Institute for Mental Health, nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. Among children 13-18, an estimated 49.5% of adolescents had any mental disorder, and 22.2% had severe impairment.