As South Florida reels from Wednesday’s mass shooting at a Broward County high school, State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, is working to secure funding for Florida school districts to better identify and address mental health concerns in students early on.
Unbeknownst to Sen. Passidomo, as she was presenting her bill (SB 1434) to members of the chamber’s K through 12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Wednesday, the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland was occurring.
The proposal calls for districts to create a plan or framework for identifying and addressing mental health concerns in students ranging from bullying to gang activity. Those plans would also involve partnerships between schools and local mental health providers. The idea was born out of workshops Passidomo held with education stakeholders including Broward County School District Superintendent Robert Runcie. Sen. Passidomo said it’s about providing the kind of proactive early intervention that could help prevent tragedies like Wednesday’s mass shooting.
“We need to address these issues early on,” said Sen. Passidomo. “I can’t say anymore. The thing that’s most troubling to me is that Florida is one of the worst states in the country for funding for mental health and so these kinds of things have happened and if we could intervene early on in the lives of these people they won’t become monsters that they are today. It’s reprehensible if we don’t do something soon.”
Currently, the Florida Senate’s approved $87.3 billion budget proposal includes $40 million for the initiative. Passidomo said that is not enough. She said she’s working to convince her Senate colleagues and the House to allocate more money for the effort in the 2018-19 fiscal year budget.