NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Dec. 11 that the state will use $23 million in federal pandemic funds to support mental-health services.
The money, from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, will serve an additional 300 adults and 375 youths with severe mental illness needing crisis intervention, according to DeSantis’ office.
The money will be steered to areas “that have the greatest need,” DeSantis said during a mental-health forum in Tampa. The governor and First Lady Casey DeSantis have made addressing mental-health issues one of their top priorities.
The governor said social isolation and separation due to the coronavirus pandemic have taken a “mental toll” on Floridians, even if they haven’t contracted the disease.
‘People are suffering’
The money will boost funding for comprehensive services for children and adults with severe and persistent mental illness.
“We think this is a well thought-out package,” DeSantis said. “This is something that is absolutely critical in terms of responding to COVID-19, understanding that the fallout from
the pandemic is not simply limited to someone that may get admitted to a hospital for COVID. It extends far beyond that, into every community in the state of Florida. We need to face it head on.”
Casey DeSantis said “people are suffering” through the pandemic. “One of the worst things you can do when you’re depressed is isolate,” she said. The Dec. 11 announcement came a day after a statewide grand jury released a scathing report on the state’s mental-health system.
The report said “deficiencies in funding, leadership and services related to mental health care tend to turn up everywhere like bad pennies.” The governor asked the Supreme Court to impanel the grand jury a year after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stone-man Douglas High School in Parkland.
DeSantis acknowledged the findings about mental health in the grand jury report. “It’s not an easy problem to deal with, under any circumstances. We think this significant amount of resources is important, we think it’s justified, and we think it will make a difference,” he said.