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Education officials proposed the change to the statewide school curriculum in June, following discussions with First Lady Casey DeSantis, who has made the mental health issue one of her top priorities.
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Florida’s First Lady Casey DeSantis announced a new statewide mental health initiative Thursday morning at Roland Park K-8 Magnet School in Tampa.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody - flanked by Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister - led a discussion in Tampa Wednesday about ways to end mental health stigma and prevent law enforcement officer suicides.

Florida is an “outlier” in prison systems across the nation when it comes to the use of solitary confinement, according to a 90-page federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that alleges the state Department of Corrections is violating the constitutional rights of inmates.

A bill aimed at making sure people with mental health and substance abuse disorders have access to early intervention and peer mentorship has unanimously cleared the Florida House.

Florida lawmakers are responding to a report on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland with a measure that addresses concerns raised in the 480-plus page report. Lawmakers say it’s "a good bill, but"—noting a divide over one portion that gives districts the option to allow classroom teachers to carry guns. The measure is now going before the full Senate amid controversy over the issue.

Mental health has been a frequent topic at the Capitol following more tragic news from Parkland. Two students who survived last year's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre took their own lives last month. 

The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald bureau reports that while the Legislature allocated $69 million for student mental health after the tragedy, almost none of it went to suicide prevention. But some lawmakers have begun to study prevention programs.

Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee. He's troubled by a recent report of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. In mid-February as his panel heard a presentation on suicide, he pointed to data showing Americans' life expectancy had dropped for the third year in a row.

Therapist Keith Smith demonstrates virtual reality equipment at the University of Central Florida. Smith uses virtual reality to help treat veterans' post traumatic stress disorder.
Stephanie Colombini / WUSF Public Media

The University of Central Florida is using virtual reality to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. It's worked well enough that the Pentagon will fund similar programs elsewhere.


DeSantis, State Leaders Put Focus On Mental Health

Mar 29, 2019

Coming after the grim news that two survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre committed suicide this month, Gov. Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis held an hour-long “listening” session Thursday on mental-health issues. 

Mental Health Draws Debate After Student Suicides

Mar 28, 2019

Two suicides in the span of a week involving student survivors of the Parkland school shooting have sparked a new question at the Florida Capitol: How much mental-health money should the state provide to schools? 

A Florida mental health care worker is facing charges that he sexually battered three patients. 

It's been exactly a year today since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and anniversaries can be particularly hard on survivors of trauma.

Most people who get shot survive. That’s true here in South Florida and across the country.

Change Seeks To Remove ‘Stigma’ For Doctors

Jan 16, 2019

Doctors often ask patients to fill out medical histories.

But before being licensed in Florida, doctors have to divulge their own medical histories to the state, including disclosing whether they have been treated for mental-health or substance-abuse disorders in the past five years.

Children registering for school in Florida this year were asked to reveal some history about their mental health.

The new requirement is part of a law rushed through the state legislature after the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The state’s school districts now must ask whether a child has ever been referred for mental health services on registration forms for new students.

U.S. Department of Education

The University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s College of Education received a $2.2 million grant for a new statewide training program for K-12 schools.

USF St. Pete will work with the Florida Department of Education to help school personnel identify the signs of emotional distress, mental health difficulties and substance abuse disorders - then connect those students with resources.

Patients with serious mental illness may have an increased choice of health-care providers under an agreement between the state and one of the largest Medicaid mental-health plans.

The Florida commission investigating February's high school massacre will discuss the role of campus police officers and changes to the state's mental health laws.

Haiti’s misfortunes – extreme poverty, political crises, natural disasters – are more than just material. They’ve also led to mental health issues. And until recently those were rarely adequately addressed in Haiti. That’s changed – and Guerda Nicolas is a big reason why.

Nicolas is a professor of psychology at the University of Miami’s School of Education and Human Development, and the American Psychological Association just awarded her its international humanitarian award for her work promoting mental health services in Haiti.

Mental Health Providers Wait For Medicaid Answers

Aug 23, 2018

Florida is moving ahead with new Medicaid managed-care contracts, but mental-health providers continue to await publication of details about how services need to be delivered.

The organization Parkland Cares, founded in the wake of the February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, awarded its first three grants to local mental health service providers Mondy, totaling $75,000. 

The Children's Bereavement Center, Behavioral Health Associates of Broward and Henderson Behavioral Health each received checks for $25,000, which will go directly to creating services, subsidizing services, or making counseling more accessible for residents. 

The gun legislation passed after the Parkland mass shooting was historic for many reasons, not the least of which was that it represented the first gun restrictions passed in Florida in more than 20 years. 

Volusia Schools To Create ‘Mental Health Response Teams’

Aug 10, 2018

Volusia County Schools is looking to hire qualified school counselors, licensed mental health providers, social workers and school psychologists. This comes after the state gave school districts funds to beef up security and to expand mental health resources following the Parkland mass shooting.

The VA hopes to roll out a national "whole health" program for veterans, offering them acupuncture, tai chi, yoga,and other alternative mental health therapies.

As the community around Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School prepares to go back to school, the Florida Counseling Association is hosting a free, two-day workshop focused on responding to communal trauma. The Friday event is tailored for mental health professionals, while the Saturday event is open exclusively to MSD staff.

When Dorothy Paugh was 9, her father bought a pistol and started talking openly about ending his life. Her mother was terrified but didn't know what to do.

"She called our priest and called his best friend," Paugh recalled. "They came and talked to him, and they didn't ask to take his gun away."

Her father was 51 when he shot himself to death.

A requirement in the school safety bill passed after the Parkland shooting is raising privacy concerns.

Court Upholds Commitment In Mental Illness Dispute

Jul 9, 2018

A state appeals court Friday upheld a judge’s decision to involuntarily commit a man to an inpatient treatment facility, despite the man’s arguments that his mental illness did not pose a danger to his well-being and that other less-restrictive alternatives were available. 

UF Gets Designation For Work On Mental Health

Jun 21, 2018

With suicide a growing concern, the University of Florida is touting the designation of its Mood Disorders Program as a center for excellence by the National Network of Depression Centers.

The deaths of designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain have caused media organizations to look at how they cover suicide and whether more could be done to prevent copycat killings, without neglecting the duty to report news.

Anthony Ryan HatchWesleyan University

Moments after Neo eats the red pill in “The Matrix,” he touches a liquefied mirror that takes over his skin, penetrating the innards of his body with computer code. When I first learned about the controversial new digital drug Abilify MyCite, I thought of this famous scene and wondered what kinds of people were being remade through this new biotechnology.

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